How Much Have We Lost?

Friday, February 19, 2010

State Budget Crisis Looms

The following article was published in the Mount Vernon Gazette and Mount Vernon Voice on February 18, 2010:

Last week we had a big victory in protecting funding for Fairfax County’s Public Schools. Governor Bob McDonnell announced his opposition to former Governor Kaine’s proposal to "freeze" the "rebenchmarking" or readjustment of the local composite index (LCI), part of the funding formula that determines state funding of local schools. If Kaine’s decision goes into effect, it will cost us about $61 million or $438,000 per Fairfax County school. I am working to prevent these cuts and enact Governor McDonnell’s proposal.

I have been consistently clear in opposing freezing the LCI. Hundreds of Fairfax County residents, including a particularly dedicated group of parents from the Stratford Landing area, have lobbied the Governor and state legislators to prevent these cuts. While the existing formula does not benefit Fairfax County, it does avoid biennial regional warfare and provides some measure of predictability. Governor McDonnell’s decision was the right decision for Virginia and I applaud him.

However, preliminary reports are that budget negotiators are discussing a $700 million cut from elementary-secondary education. These cuts could generate opposition from other localities that are more dependent on the state’s money (really mostly Northern Virginia’s money) and these jurisdictions will start to face the same kind of pain Fairfax County has been discussing recently. Do not be surprised if the rebenchmarking issue gets put back on the table.

The Fairfax County schools’ budget hole is still massive — over $100 million — with more state budget cuts about to hit. Nearly 60 percent of the Mount Vernon families who responded to my survey said that their number one priority is protecting elementary-secondary education funding. I will fight any effort to reduce our public school funds and continue to look for ways to fund our schools and do so without relying so heavily on residential real estate taxes.

This week, we start work on the Senate’s bills and the state budget. This budget is the worst we have seen since the Great Depression and the 44th District has some of the highest concentrations of people most likely to be affected. I expect proposals like massive "cuts" in Medicaid, the federal-state program providing health care to disabled and low-income people, and even more proposals to cut college funding.

These changes are not "cuts" but are simply shifts of government responsibilities to Mount Vernon’s middle-class families in the form of higher tuition, higher insurance costs and a raft of fees for students’ tests, sports and activities. I will fight as hard as I can against these efforts to dismantle what have traditionally been community responsibilities.

Finally, please visit my blog, The Dixie Pig, at scottsurovell.blogspot.com for three to four more articles per week and many of my floor speeches. You can also comment on legislation, set up a meeting or request a Capitol tour at http://www.scottsurovell.org/. Good government requires your input so please communicate with me so I can best represent your concerns in the General Assembly. It is an honor to serve as your state delegate.

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