Capitol's Capital

The Commonwealth of Virginia may not yet have a budget, but in a couple of weeks it will have $7.35 million more to spend. Late last week, House Speaker Bill Howell (R-Stafford) announced that the legislature will return that amount to the general fund at the end of the fiscal year, which ends June 30. Speaker Howell said the money comes from legislative branch agency and legislative commission and council savings, more than $3.7 million from the former and more than $3.5 million from the latter. The largest single amount, $3.34 million, is leftover from The American Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission. He added that the legislature has returned more than $19 million in savings to the general fund since 2010.

He attributed the ability to return such amounts to . . .

the fiscally conservative and responsible approach to government that Virginia taxpayers demand.

Returning $19 million in taxpayer money in four years is cause for joy. It's not pocket change, although some politicians (and cynical citizens and assorted left wingers) may think it is. There was a day when that kind of money was a considerable sum for the federal budget. Sadly, it almost seems irrelevant even at the state level.

Worse, still, is that as soon as the state is allowed to start spending money in the new fiscal year, it will be gone. Why not put that money toward next year's legislative expenses? Another question: Why is there so much leftover money? It sounds like some more accurate budgeting could be in order — as with all agencies. If it doesn't spend the money, by such a large margin, why is it getting that much to begin with? Budget less, spend less, return the money to the taxpayers. Now, that's conservative government.