How Much Have We Lost?

Monday, February 28, 2011

2011 Budget Highlights

Last night, we ended the session by voting on the proposed amendments to the State Budget as worked out by the House and Senate. The Budget cleared both houses unanimously for the first time in a long time.

The budget was truly a bipartisan compromise where both sides gave. It was negotiated by twelve "Budget Conferees" (Delegates Kirk Cox, Chris Jones, Beverly Sherwood, Steve Landes, Johnny Joannou and Senators Dick Saslaw, Chuck Colgan, Janet Howell, Edd Houck, William Wampler, Walter Stosch, and Tommy Norment) who worked tirelessly over the last week to produce a the result. The fact that there were no dissenting votes say a lot about their effectiveness, efforts, and creativity.

Governor Bob McDonnell also deserves to be commended for moving the parties along through their negotiations.

It now moves on to the Governor for his review, line item vetoes, or acceptance and will be our state budget through June 30, 2012 once finally approved.

Here are some highlights.

Overall Highlights
  • No General Fund money was contribued to transportation other than amounts required by previously enacted statutes. Transportation in Virginia has historically been funded by taxes deposited into a separate fund called the Transportation Trust Fund.
  • The budget makes a $64 million prepayment to the constitutionally-required Rainy Day Fund contribution required next year which will be massive (over $200 million due).
  • A gimmick used to balance the State Budget last year - early payment of sales tax revenue by businesses - was removed for 80% of Virginia businesses (businesses with less than $5.4 million of revenue).
  • The budget gave state employees a 5% raise, but required state employees to contribute 5% to the Virginia Retirement System. State employees previously made no contribution to VRS.
  • The Budget contains no new taxes and removed some fee increases from last year.
Education Funding

  • K-12 funding was increased over and above what the Governor proposed by about $80+/- million. That will result in Fairfax County receiving $4.1 million over what the Governor proposed.
  • The "hold harmless" payment to localities whose education funding should have gone down last year due to budget cuts was maintained (does not affect Northern Virginia).
  • The House's proposal to take funding from low income preschool programs to fund full-day kindergarten was rejected.
  • The Budget directed at least $20 million in new monies to various state universities to increase Science, Technology, Engineering and Math programs and increase college capacity.

Health Care

  • The budget increased Medicaid provider funding by $100 million to partially make up for the $400 million in cuts last year. This will help avoid further doctors refusing Medicaid patients and will help with everyone's insurance rates.
  • We also increased the number of Medicaid waivers for profoundly disabled adults and set aside $30 million to assist in the transition from institutional facilities to community care centers to comply with a Department of Justice investigiation and request.
  • Funding for AIDS drug programs was restored. I had constituents who specifically lobbied me about this issue and had been cut off due to budget cuts.
  • The Governor proposed to cut $2 million of funding for the Healthy Families Program - a proven program that reduces the incidence of domestic abuse in Northern Virginia. The budget we approved restored $500,000 of those cuts. Plus, a small increase funding for Northern Virginia Family Services which helps low income households in Northern Virginia was budgeted.

Judicial System & Public Safety

  • Last year, we froze elections on judges due to budget constraints. This resulted in the loss of one open judgeship in Fairfax County, two in Arlington County due to retirements and one in the City of Alexandria due to retirements. Alexandria gets its judgeship, the rest of Northern Virginia does not.
  • $15 million in new "599" funding for new police positions in localities.
  • The House's effort to terminate drug court funding was avoided.
  • The Governor's effort to substantially scale back funding for Juvenile non-incarceration sentencing programs was avoided. '
  • The Governor's proposal to raid $5 million from attorney bar dues to fund the general budget was rejected.
  • The state had to appropriate $270,000 for new mandatory minimum sentences enacted this year.

State Parks

  • $1.2 million was provided to create 15 new positions in our State Parks which are seeing record visitation.

Social Issues & Other Items

  • The House's proposed cuts to public television were largely avoided.
  • The House's proposed ban on stem cell funding was rejected.
  • The House's proposed ban on Planned Parenthood funding was rejected.
  • Rejected a Senate proposal to spent $500 million on new office space in Capitol Square including a $300 million new General Assembly Building.

I will write about the transportation bill we passed this year later this week. In the meantime, if you have any specific questions about the state budget, please post them up below or shoot me an email at scottsurovell@gmail.com.

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