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Vicious Budget Cuts, Cowardly Governor

by: Elaine in Roanoke

Wed Feb 17, 2010 at 11:45:58 AM EST

I know I've already written quite a lot about the state budget, but information is so hard to come by that I'll update things one more time.

I'm angry today. I'm angry that we in Virginia are poised to make the most vulnerable citizens in the Commonwealth pay the highest price for the budget crisis that Wall Street greed caused in Virginia and the rest of America. I'm also angry that we have a guy sitting in the governor's mansion who is too cowardly to share with the rest of us what he wants done.

The way this whole thing is unfolding is wrong. Normally, we would be having a spirited discussion about the cuts that have to be made to balance the state budget. However, as I have written before, this mess is unfolding in secret.

According to today's Washington Post, Gov. Bob McDonnell is very specific in secret meetings in describing the kind of budget cuts he wants to see made in the state budget, in order to meet his demand for no new taxes.

He apparently doesn't want any advocates for the poor, the sick, the elderly, or the children to be able to make a case for sparing those groups some of the sacrifices they are going to be asked to make. Plus, he actually must think he can keep his own hands clean in this mess and have the legislature get all the negative fallout.

I am thankful for the Washington Post and its reporter Anita Kumer, who has been writing about the secret budget discussions by using leaks from Richmond. Those efforts are the only way we citizens have to keep an eye on McDonnell and his plans for the state.

The cut list Gov. Wimpy has given Republicans in the General Assembly is pretty horrendous:

Elaine in Roanoke :: Vicious Budget Cuts, Cowardly Governor
K-12 Education: Cuts of $730 million over two years. Hit hardest will be support staff, supplemental salaries for coaches and club sponsors, and health insurance for teachers. The Standards of Quality will also be loosened. While the legislature won't mention teaching positions lost, believe me, there is no way to make those cuts on the local level without cutting deeply into instructional positions.

Health Care: $300 million in cuts over two years. Mental-health treatment beds will drop by 232. Community service boards that offer substance abuse and mental health treatment programs will lose 5% of their funding. Worst of all in a time of high unemployment will be a freeze on the enrollment of low-income children and pregnant woman into the FAMIS program, also known as called SCHIP.

Another proposal is to reduce Medicaid eligibility for those in long-term care, such as nursing homes. That proposal could adversely affect 2,000 Virginians.

These cuts in the paltry benefits Virginia gives to people who either cannot afford or cannot qualify for health insurance any other way comes at a time when the Republicans in the state are also railing against President Obama's attempts give more Americans health insurance.

Rep. Alan Grayson's (D-FL) concise description of Republican health care plans is becoming quite apt for Virginia: "Don't get sick, and if you do get sick, die quickly."

The Post reported that Robert Vaughn, staff director for the House Appropriations Committee, has said McDonnell also suggested reducing eligibility for all Medicaid programs, as well. Virginia already has some of the toughest eligibility requirements and the stingiest payments in the nation, but I guess that's not enough for Gov. Wimpy.  

State Employees: All employees will be required to take 10 days furlough without pay. They also will have to pick up the 5% payment into the Virginia Retirement System presently paid by the state.

Virginia Retirement System: $550 million in budget cuts for the state retirement system. Part of that decline will come from reduced retirement benefits for new state and local employees, creating a two-tier system. (That should guarantee morale problems.)

Other cuts: Public libraries will lose millions of dollars in funding. Some state parks will be closed. All state money for public broadcasting will be phased out over four years.

These cuts are trickling out of back room meetings with the governor's staff and a handful of legislators. McDonnell, aka Gov. Wimpy, evidently is afraid to follow the leadership model of all other governors and submit his recommendations in the form of amendments to the final Kaine budget.

"I personally think it's a dereliction of duty for a governor not to come forward and inform the public on what cuts need to be made,'' said Sen. Janet D. Howell (D-Fairfax), a member of the Senate Finance Committee. "It's just sneaky."

I agree.

"Usually by this time, the public would have been deeply involved in the debate," said Robley S. Jones, director of government affairs for the Virginia Education Association, which represents teachers. "The governor has chosen not to do that. I'm not sure democracy is well served."

Come on, Rob. Drop that "I'm not sure." Why not say, "This is undemocratic"? Don't be afraid of straight talk.

These revelations are coming out as the deadline for the House of Delegates and the State Senate to pass their budgets nears. Both houses have to complete their budgets by Sunday.

Gov. Wimpy and the GOPers in the legislature have made it impossible for the advocates for the poor, the sick, and the weak to mount any effort to salvage some of the benefits that are  necessary for those Virginians.

So, I am angry. I am angry for the children, for the sick, for those who most need the rest of us. A refusal to equally share the burden of this state budget shortfall means that they have to shoulder the entire load themselves - they and the public servants who try to meet their needs. That is not only unfair. It is shameful.

"Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty, a stranger or lacking clothes, sick or in prison, and did not come to your help?" Then he will answer, "In truth I tell you, in so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to me."  - Matthew 25: 44-45

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is shameful Elaine. Thanks so much for posting this.

Now my next question is what can us regular citizens do about it other than bitch to our representatives?

Not Much
Maybe Letters to the Editor...

[ Parent ]
A trip to Richmond...
To visit your legislator and a visit to the aides of those making the budget decisions (committee lists can be found on the GA website).  We have just as much right to be there to express our opinion as any special interest, right?

Elaine, there was an e-mail from the Governor to all state employees that directly contradicts the info about VRS contributions and furloughs.  I'd be happy to share with you.

[ Parent ]
forgot to mention:

I hate these people.

Finally, a Press Conference
McDonnell finally found the courage to detail some budget cuts. Here are those for education and some (not all) for health and human services:

Education: Reduce state aid for support staff, school nurses, school transportation to 2008 levels. No funding for supplements for coaches and sponsors. End aid for mentor teaching and school breakfast programs. Lower payments for non-personnel school costs. Cut payments for at-risk programs. No state aid for staff travel costs. Elimination of $9 million in Pre-K funding so the state can shift that to welfare costs in order to avoid losing federal matching dollars.

Health and Human Resources: Cuts 232 in-patient mental health beds. Eliminate personal respite/companion care services. Reduce income level that allows persons to be eligible for Medicaid, including persons in nursing homes. Freeze enrollment in medical insurance for poor children and pregnant women, resulting in at least 28,566 people not receiving help. Freeze reimbursement to UVA and VCU for indigent health care. Reduce state dental care to the poor by 5%. Cut funding to community services boards by $24.4 million. Eliminate state funding for Healthy Families of Virginia. Cut $5.5 million from local departments of social services, mostly for in-home services to needy elderly. Eliminate funding for local dental services to the poor. Eliminate child advocacy centers that work with abused children. Guts most AIDS programs.

Summary: Cuts the additional $2.2 billion from those who need the most help.

So how...
Do UVA and VCU make up for the loss of additional funds for indigent care?  Especially with more and more people falling into that category...

[ Parent ]
A Look at a Tax Increase
Here is a calculation of just what Kaine's proposed income tax surcharge would mean to someone making $50,000 per year:

Present state income tax: $2,875, assuming absolutely no deductions, including personal.

Proposed increased tax: $3,375, again assuming no  deductions.

Total increase: $500, or $41.67 per month. This does not take into account the fact that the car tax would completely disappear under Kaine's proposal.

My husband and I paid a total of $416 in car taxes this year.

A  couple of days ago, my husband and I went out to dinner. The check with tip came to $46, more money that that $50,000 income would lose in a month.

Now, who is most able to withstand a small decrease in monthly income. My husband and me...or a child in need of medical care?

I agree...
I did the calculations too - its less than and hour's worth of pay per paycheck for me, based on 26 checks per year.

[ Parent ]
I'm not going to lie to you.
$46 is a big deal to me. Seeing as my generation got screwed over, we won't be contributing in taxes any time soon. Mmmm, debt.

[ Parent ]
tax increases.

Get with the program gang.

I did write a sternly worded letter to the DPVA.

I'm sure they'll be answering me directly.


Oops, I Forgot
I am soooo sorry. I forgot that the DPVA agrees with the plan to co-operate with the governor and the GOP in order to show them that we know how to act like a "responsible" minority "partner," just like they did with Kaine. (Double snark)

[ Parent ]
we forget. Roads get fixed by magic. Schools just work fine with no money-the teachers can just pay for everything. If bridges fall down, God will just rebuild them for free.

It is hard to fathom just how far in the toilet we will be in four years with these jokers in charge.

Those highway welcome centers are more important than education, children, the poor, homeless, and sick. They can go to hell for all Bob McDonnell cares. Or Heaven if they're right with Pat Robertson... er, Jesus.

[ Parent ]
A furlough is a pay cut
I know this diary is mostly about those less fortunate who will suffer.  And the extent to which they will is appalling.  

But a furlough is a pay cut.  Pols can call it what they will, but it's a pay cut.  And it is not the first cut state employees have received amid all the pay freezes and other scapegoating over the years. It's been decades of punishing educators, due to decades of Republican rule in the legislature (Republicans, who have contempt for education, especially higher ed).

They will love education once all the schools are privatized, once hedge fund managers are making big bucks at the expense of our kids, and teachers make next to nothing (de-fund the left).

"One person, one vote" died at the hands of SCOTUS, January 21, 2010

lot of state workers would rather have a furlough than lose their jobs. So we won't be seeing any upsetness from that group (those that even know about it that is).

So there we have it- state workers aren't mad, democrats aren't mad, rethugs are happy as can be, the non profit organizations who serve the mentally ill and the poor don't have money to fight these cuts with their own lobbyists and guv wimpy will get everything he wants.

Mission accomplished.

[ Parent ]
McDonnell is buying their (state employees) loyalty by promising them a 3% bonus in 2012...or something like that.

His "budget outline" has the audacity to say that while public school teachers had not gotten additional money for salaries from the state, they had received raises from the localities the past two or three years.

Not in the Roanoke Valley. The only "raises" have been the step increases that are built into the salary scale.

If McDonnell can get through his lousy "merit pay" garbage, he and his henchmen can get rid of pay increases based on longevity.

[ Parent ]
no more COLs. Just a nice increase for those who kiss up to their supervsor the most.

[ Parent ]
I don't know...
I think we're mad, but resigned.  I know I'm mad - the promise of a 3% bonus 4 years after my last raise isn't enough of a carrot for me - throw in a 2% pay cut (which the proposed furlough is), increased benefit contributions, and the prospect of losing out on my future retirement and I'm ready to fight.  

But who and how do I fight?  I can complain until I'm blue in the face about the disparity of balancing the budget on the backs of the poor, the sick, children and state workers, but ultimately what good is it going to do?  McDonnell isn't going to sign anything that would create additional revenue, the House certainly isn't going to create any proposals that would raise revenues, and the democrats I've been counting on are CO-SPONSORING the legislation that would eliminate the state contribution to VRS for new employees.  There's literally no where and no one to turn to.

So we're resigned.  We still have jobs, our pay will be cut by 2%, but many other places are seeing worse - and if it'll help the state save the jobs of my colleagues, I'll happily accept the cut.  

A friend and I have decided that we should focus on one thing that we could work toward rather than trying to fight the whole thing, so we're looking at trying to turn the 2011 3% bonus into a genuine 3% increase.  It's something at least.

[ Parent ]
One Thing
There is one thing. Next time around, perhaps the state workers could vote against the people who are screwing them over. That might get someone's attention.

If those Dems you were counting on aren't doing what they should, make them aware of the fact that you vote. Do you have an association? Does anyone lobby for the little guys?

As for the Repubs, they are a lost cause, but far too many people go in the voting booth and pull the lever for those clowns. Case in point: AG Ken Cuccinelli.

[ Parent ]
The only surprise
is that he hadn't borrowed a page from his spiritual buddies in Utah's legislature and didn't propose eliminating 12grade entirely. Think how much money could be saved that way! Still better, make only grades 1-8 (who needs kindergarten, anyway) compulsory and free.

I never could figure out why the communist countries insisted on everyone staying in school till hey were 18; the dumber the populace, the easier it is to lead it by the nose.  

The reason
communist countries insisted on 12 years of education was that it gave them that much more time to indoctrinate the little suckers.

I am sure that is the idea behind the charter school vouchers and home schooling. Consider their past efforts to install anti-evolution teaching in public schools; it most often was defeated, so the lesson the conservatives learned thereby is: destroy public schools, put the brats into compulsory indoctrination. (That is what they accuse public schools of doing: indoctrinating children to favor big government.) Since we have learned that Republicans always accuse the opposition of what they themselves do or plan to do, I offer that as proof positive.

[ Parent ]
Extended indoctrination
and, possibly, prolonging the time before the little bastards entered the job market and tried to unsaddle the graybeards :)

My highschool boyfriend (17) and I (15) had a nice sideline in  doing "heavy cleaning" of apartments -- scrub/wax/polish floors, wash windows, etc -- in the after-school hours. But, although it was legal for him, all of our customers could have been sued for employing me; child-labour laws prohibited anyone under 16 to be employed (which, neatly, excluded the farmers. Though, even they could get penalised if their kids were missing too many school days during harvest or the spring sowing).

We often speculated that insisting on no earnings before 16 (on the one hand), and being 18 before you left school (on the other hand), created a "holding pen", easing off the potential unemployment problems. You have to remember that, in the communist/socialist societies, the unemployment rate was zero; something that the government bragged about constantly. Being able to work was happiness, and everyone was allowed to be happy, in that best of all worlds :)

But, to this day, I wonder whether the advantages of having the kids under control (and open to indoctrination) for a longer period of time was really worth the risk of opening more windows for them. True, lots of books were "forbidden". But we got to read them anyway and, once a single person read it, the knowledge contained therein spread among the entire school, if not further. And, the longer we stayed in school, controlled on all other fronts (couldn't marry, couldn't vote, etc), the more time we had to explore the various "thought paths". Helped by the "tools" (organised thought process, ways of looking for and evaluating info) handed to us by the system...

None of the dissidents came from the (admittedly few) private schools; we all went through the public ones, provided, for free, by the government.  

[ Parent ]
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