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Governor’s proposed 2010-11 budget is full of fiscal pain

Governor Timothy M. Kaine’s proposed biennial budget was unveiled on Dec. 18 for consideration by the 2010 General Assembly, along with a new governor.
It reflects Kaine's fourth round of cuts since 2007, when falling tax revenues became evident due to a tanking economy.
Kaine said he developed the budget during “the toughest national economic conditions since the 1930s.”
Though the condition of the economy can’t be argued against, state legislators have nonetheless found fault with Kaine’s spending cuts and cost-saving measures.

But it remains to be seen what the General Assembly will do with the budget proposal when it gets its chance come mid-January.  
There’s plenty not to like, with reductions in most areas. Below are just a few.
Cuts to prisons would result in early release of non-violent prisoners.
Another proposal would provide 7 percent reductions for the Virginia State Police, local police, sheriffs and commonwealth's attorneys.
The Virginia Department of Transportation would be cut again, with 1,000 positions to go over the next two years.
Some Medicaid services would be cut, along with reductions on reimbursement rates for most health care providers.
Kaine is also proposing to freeze state wages by canceling two scheduled pay raises for state employees.
Among some other new tax proposals to raise money, including the car tax, additional revenue would also be generated by increasing the tax on cigarettes by 30 cents a pack.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY TIMETABLE    
Releasing a proposed budget to cover the next two years was Kaine’s primary final act as head of the commonwealth before he leaves office after his term.
The General Assembly will begin mulling it, with money committees to take up the budget proposal when the 2010 session convenes on Jan. 13.  
A new governor will be approving the final biennial budget for 2010-2012, which starts on July 1.
Bob McDonnell, elected governor in November, will be inaugurated later that week on Jan. 16.
Money committees are expected to report on budget proposals in late February, with budget bills to crossover between the two houses on Feb. 25.
The General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn on March 13, but will reconvene for a short session on April 21 to review legislative amendments expected by McDonnell.

FUNDING CUTS TO LOCALITIES      
Local officials may not like Kaine’s budget proposal, but unlike state legislators, they have no control over potential amendments.
Localities must wait it out, while state legislators slog it out.
In addition to numerous cuts in state government, there are some major reductions in funding to localities.
One big provision would shift all costs for funding all positions under the two constitutional officers of the Commissioner of Revenue and Treasurer. 
Currently, salaries for a set number of positions in each office are funded by the state Board of Compensation. 
In King George, like many localities, those salaries are supplemented, along with costs for benefits.
 “This change to the current structure will enable local governments to have sole responsibility for planning and funding the fiscal side of local government operations,” Kaine said.
It would also provide a huge unfunded mandate for all localities.
King George supervisors had previously provided budget guidance to staff that included no layoffs. But they didn’t see this coming.
It’s not known what the local recourse will be if the General Assembly follows through with Kaine’s provision to eliminate state funding for all personnel in those two constitutional offices, except the two elected constitutional officers themselves, which would remain state-funded.

Phyllis Cook
Staff Reporter

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