virginia budget

Budget Games End Tuesday

Tomorrow, lawmakers will be back in Richmond to hold a public hearing on Obamacare expansion. Your presence and voice will make the difference. The Senate Finance Committee — controlled by the same senators who have held the commonwealth's budget hostage to force Obamacare on Virginians, at the expense of funding schools, public safety and everything else — will hear public comments on whether or not to pass a clean budget without expansion. The Family Foundation will join a large coalition of conservative organizations offering testimony tomorrow to oppose the expansion. We need to deliver a clear message to these lawmakers that our emergency service personnel and schools are not pawns for their political games.

While the hearing begins at 2:00, sign-up for those interested in speaking starts at 1:00. Please arrive early enough to help us stop the Obama OFA group and other leftist organizations, such as Moveon.org, from blocking our voice by taking all the speaking slots. It wouldn't surprise us if those groups were given a heads up on this maneuver precisely so it can pack the room with left wing activists.

We cannot stress enough how important it is that conservatives take a public stand in support of a clean budget. Trying to force Obamacare expansion into the budget is wrong for many reasons, not to mention that is highly questionable whether or not it belongs in the budget: It is not an appropriation of state tax dollars, it wasn't passed as stand alone legislation that needs to be funded and it would contravene a law last year that mandated the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission do its work and recommend the commonwealth's next move. Furthermore, a program notoriously rife with abuse and never subject to an independent audit should most certainly not be included in the Virginia budget.

There will be free bus rides available for those in Southwest Virginia (as far as Bristol) and Northern Virginia. Sign-up here for a ride from a bus stop near you.

If you cannot make it to the event (and even if you are attending), please take two  convenient actions: Contact members of the Senate Finance Committee by phone or e-mail. Click here for committee members and their contact information. Then, if you haven't done so already, please sign the Pass A Clean Budget Terry Petition to make your voice heard to Governor McAuliffe to pass a clean budget.

Pass A Clean Budget! Sign The Petition.

As was predicted for weeks, the General Assembly was not be able to come to an agreement on a state budget prior to leaving Richmond on Saturday. Governor Terry McAuliffe and a majority of senators have made adopting a budget contingent on expanding Obamacare, putting Virginia's economic well-being at risk. Already, far-left organizations like moveon.org are spending millions of dollars to rhetorically assault legislators taking a stand against Obamacare. We need to counter the Left's efforts by doing all we can to stand with those lawmakers who are standing for us!

One simple way you can make your voice heard is by signing the petition at www.passthebudgetterry.com/.

Even many of those who support the expansion of Obamacare, such as the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, have urged the governor and senate to decouple the budget from that debate. Holding state government, local governments, schools and, more importantly, the taxpayers of Virginia hostage because they know they don't have the votes to expand the failure that is Obamacare places an already fragile economy in peril.

Sixty-four members of the House of Delegates and 17 members of the Virginia Senate rejected the expansion of Obamacare. They need to know that we stand with them! Please sign the petition at www.passthebudgetterry.com/ so that they know you want a clean budget with no expansion of Obamacare.

It's unfortunate, but we are seeing more and more of Washington, D.C. style politics coming to Virginia. If the Left can't win the debate with facts and reason — which aren't on its side — it resorts to politically motivated scare tactics and rhetorical bludgeoning. Those who understand the dire straits our Republic is in because of our ever growing $17 trillion debt are painted as "uncaring" and not in favor of health care for those who are disadvantaged! The truth is that Medicaid is the least effective way of providing care to those in need and Obamacare has prevented us from having a real debate over how to fix our health care system.

The first step is to sign the petition. We are currently planning other ways by which you'll be able to make your voice heard regarding this important issue. Stay tuned for more details in the coming days!

State Police, Senators Blevins And Colgan Save Budget In Historic Vote: An Only In Hollywood End To Virginia's Budget Crisis

Earlier today, in an extraordinary sequence of events, the Virginia Senate passed the House-Senate Conference Committee budget 21-19. Senator Charles Colgan, the chamber's most senior member, and ranking Democrat on the Finance Committee, cracked the heretofore Democrat hegemony to provide the constitutionally mandated 21st vote of a senator required for budget approval. It was a move, despite public whispers, the Senate minority leader, incredibly, said he "didn't see coming" (see Norfolk Virginian-Pilot). Senator Colgan talked about breaking ranks leading up to the special budget session, a session he contributed to necessitating by sticking with his more liberal Democrat caucus mates. Yesterday, he maintained that solidarity to the delight of the Senate minority leader, whose bravado about holding out for his demand de semana was topped only by his bravado about maintaining his former majority, belied the ultimate fissure in his caucus: The bill-killing 20-20 vote ostensibly set the budget process off track for a third time. But today, Senator Colgan saved the General Assembly the time and effort of starting from budgetary scratch again by exercising his right, as one who voted on the prevailing side, to bring the bill back to the floor on a motion to reconsider. However, this very common procedure, used scores of times each session, was not to be that simple.

As it turned out, with the budget seemingly dead again after Tuesday's deadlock, Senator Harry Blevins decided to return home to Chesapeake to see his ailing wife. When word broke of Senator Colgan's decision, and knowing a 20-19 vote had no more effect than a 20-20 count, in a sequential chain reaction seen only in Hollywood suspense and action flicks, Senate leadership had the State Police put out an all points bulletin on Senator Blevins. After locating him and informing him of the urgent need of his attendance, Senator Blevins rushed back to the capitol and cast the deciding vote in favor of the two-year, $85 billion budget. Once the issue was officially settled — after months of political grandstanding and obstructionism by Senate Democrats and its minority leader — State Police helicoptered Senator Blevins home to be with his wife.

Senator Blevins showed a remarkable sense of duty in putting his constituents and all Virginians above a serious family situation. We wish the Blevins family our best and will keep Mrs. Blevins in our prayers and encourage all to do so as well.

Breaking News: Senate Dems Shock Virginia Media And Political Establishment By Rejecting Budget AGAIN, But Not Us. We Told You It Would Be Like This!

Governor Bob McDonnell just released a long and justifiably angry statement confronting Senate Democrats on their third budget obstruction in about six weeks. It pretty much hits on every conceivable point regarding Senate Democrats' highly partisan and obstructionist tactics that still leave the commonwealth without a two-year spending plan. (See next post for the statement.) But I can't resist three resonant "We-told-you-so's" reported/predicted on this blog not read many places elsewhere. First, as we commented during session, Senate Democrats were never serious about crafting a budget. They preferred to grandstand about "social issues wasting time and not dealing with the real issues," even as those bills were debated and voted upon in the normal legislative calendar while they actually did waste time and effort by feigning approval as long as their budget amendments were agreed to.

Second, as the governor points out, despite their protestations otherwise, Senate Democrats are obsessed with committee power, despite their loss in last November's elections, exacerbated, perhaps, by the now-minority leader's bravado that they would gain seats while not rubbing it in too much on the GOP (sentiments made before he could even find anyone to run, aside from his incumbents and newbies in safe districts, and needing to talk one senator out of his retirement). But there is one committee in particular they care about, one whose lust to rule keeps them up at night — Education and Health. The minority leader admitted as much, as we broke here, and for one plain, simple, raw reason — to serve as the blocking back for its benefactors at Planned Parenthood and the Virginia Education Association, in order to prevent protections for life and needed education reforms.

Third, during the third week of March, the mainstream media, unwilling to dig into any subterranean rumblings, much less semi-overt controversies, precipitated by the Senate's minority leadership, gleefully reported that there was budget peace, naively reporting with glee a unanimous Senate Finance Committee vote to approve a Senate budget. We outlined why there was no "peace in the valley" and expressed shock that so many media types pushed the budget issue to the back pages as if a deal was a formality when there were any number of reasons Senate liberals were ready block a final version with the House, none of which were ever going to be resolved in their favor: ultrasound funding, higher taxes, committee assignments, transportation earmarks. Some gave incredible credence to the hope that Senator Charles Colgan, the ranking Democrat on the Finance Committee and senior member of the Senate, would break ranks, somehow shocking the GOP majority we his vote fell through (see Washington Examiner). It's as if after two months of political neon sign flashing by the Senate's left, the media, pundits and even political pros, thought they'd taken a chill. But it's not only the weather that's been unseasonably warm this year.

Pick your metaphor here, but given the centennial hype over it, I'll say a budget deal then was about as secure as the Titanic making its way at night under a clueless captain. Tonight, at the Virginia General Assembly, the lifeboats are deployed.

Who's Wasting Time And Not Dealing With The "Real Issues"?

One thing we hear often is that the General Assembly needs to work on "real issues," such as job creation, and stop "wasting time" on social issues; that Virginia's lawmakers must focus on their most important job — the budget. If so, then why are the same Senate liberals who say the legislative session's focus should be on the economy, blocking adoption of a budget? They aren't even willing to pass a Senate budget as a means to get to a conference committee with the House and work out differences. Twice, they've blocked a budget bill from advancing. Since the Constitution of Virginia requires 21 senators' approval to pass a budget, Lt. Governor Bill Bolling cannot break a tie. In fact, it doesn't even need to get to 20-20, as long as there are not more than 20 "yeas" as was the case on the 20-19 vote that none-the-less sank the Senate budget a couple of weeks ago. The missing vote was that of freshman Senator Barbara Favola (D-31, Arlington), who skipped the proceedings to do an interview on MSNBC about (drum roll, please) social issues! Was she doing the people's business or "wasting time"?

So, who's obstructing resolution of the "real issues"? Who's "wasting time"? The day each chamber presents its budget the chambers entertain floor amendments before the final up-or-down vote. There are dozens of floor amendments, each with the requisite questions of the patron, debate, parliamentary inquiry and vote. The Republican controlled Senate accepted almost all (if not all) of the Democrat sponsored amendments, a process that took considerable time and lasted late into the afternoon, delaying committee hearings into the evening. After all that work and all those accepted budget amendments, Senate Democrats still blocked passage of the budget. What was the purpose of offering all the amendments if they were still going to block the budget? Sounds like a "waste of time" that lasted a lot longer than any debate on a "social issue."

Days later, Senate Democrats, voting as a bloc of 20, put the kibosh on the House budget, even though it had come over with bipartisan support. Apparently, there were no interviews with left wing media that day. But they also had no interest in working (key word) to amend it to their satisfaction. If it's not about interviews or grandstanding, it's not worth their time. Who is obstructing the resolution of the "real issues"? Who is "wasting time"? And over what?

First it was about budget cuts, but all knew, including every editorial page in the commonwealth, that it was about committee assignments and power, a power they lost in the election despite favorably redrawn districts. Then the already thin veil had a wardrobe malfunction when Senate Minority Leader Dick Saslaw (D-35, Springfield) said it was all about parity on the Education and Health Committee (see Bearing Drift).

(Education and Health is where all pro-life issues are referred to in the Senate. Senator Saslaw, who is known for his bombast, two years ago in that committee ridiculed a large bipartisan vote on a House pro-life bill, saying delegates told him they only voted for it because they knew "we'd kill it over here," which no one believed and was an astonishing impugning of motives of fellow legislators. This year, knowing those bills would pass the Senate, these same delegates still voted for pro-life bills.)

Now, according to Senator Charles Colgan (D-29, Prince William) in a floor speech today, it's all about raising taxes. (Lose an election, raise voters' taxes? Sounds like retribution rather than "working" to help struggling families in a tough economy.)

Whether it's sour grapes or wanting to inflict pain on Virginia taxpayers, Senate Democrats, for once candidly speaking, have cornered themselves into not-very-enviable positions. Who wants to run on that platform?

We are two days away from session's end. Senate liberals still have not agreed to help pass a budget. By their own words, approving one is the most important job they have, especially in a challenging economy. Despite the eight weeks they've had to sort out differences, they continue to play games over the power they lost in November. We face deadlines for local governments to fund schools, police and fire fighters; to build or repave roads; for state agencies to continue vital services; for economic development incentives to be put into place; for healthcare — all the essential tools to maintain Virginia's place as the best managed state and best state for business.

So, we ask again: Who is obstructing work on the "real issues"? Who is "wasting time"?

House Sub-Committee To Get Another Crack At "Earmark" Transparency Bill

The House Appropriations Committee chairman was quoted in the Washington Post last week, saying:

Do you think I know everything in the budget? I don't know what’s in a $78 billion budget . . . I don't know.

If the chairman of the budget writing committee doesn't know, who does? Tomorrow morning, members of a House Appropriations sub-committee can help rectify this situation. It will vote on an important reform that will bring greater transparency — and thus, less government — to the Commonwealth's budget and spending practices. It previously defeated a similar measure, so urgent action is needed to contact sub-committee members and ask them to vote in favor of SB 1353!

SB 1353, patroned by Senator Tommy Norment (R-3, Williamsburg), passed the Senate unanimously. It would prohibit the House-Senate Budget conference committee (12 members of the General Assembly) from including in its budget any funding for non-state agencies, funding for projects that were not introduced as legislation during session, and items that were not included in either chamber's version of the budget — unless the chairmen of the money committees enumerate those items in a letter to all 140 members of the legislature (see Daily Press editorial).

This is a long overdue and simple reform that will reduce government spending — with this ray of sunshine on them, the few legislators with this "earmark" privilege will be reluctant to spend money that didn’t go through the normal legislative process.

Much of the final budget is a mystery. Lawmakers get it a few hours before the vote on the final day of session. SB 1353 would make it apparent what items are in the budget that were not voted on at any stage during session. If members want to spend, it should be voted on separately, up-or-down, and on the record, not buried  in a mammoth spending bill that funds our police, schools and transportation.

Virginia's budget process leaves much to be desired and is no way to run the country's best managed state. This bill would provide transparency for citizens and help lawmakers make informed decisions.

Virginia News Stand: April 15, 2010

Annotations & Elucidations The Nuts And Bolts, Tax Day, TEA Party Version

After yesterday's very meaty edition of the News Stand, we've compiled a very basic version today — can't always keep that pace up, you know. Plus, there's other stuff to do. (What good conservative blogger wouldn't be getting ready for the TEA Party tonight?) Still, we have a good variety of reading for you today, especially of state news, of which we play a big part (the first three links).

Something else of interest: The Virginia Supreme Court heard arguments earlier this week on a property dispute between the (liberal) Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and nine more traditional (or orthodox) parishes that broke away and kept their property when the Episcopals appointed an openly homosexual bishop in New Hampshire a few years ago. The diocese wants the land back. At contention is an 1867 Virginia law meant to referee such disputes. 

Nationally, the polls show liberal leaders falling faster than American prestige around the world, and — lo and behold! — TEA Party members are wealthier and better educated than most and not racist! Golly Gee! (This is only news to mainstream media types, but fun to cite.)

Have fun paying your taxes (those who do) and attend a TEA Party!

News

*McDonnell proposes adding to Va. budget to attract commerce (Washington Post)

*Pro-choice plate avoids McDonnell veto pen (Norfolk Virginian-Pilot)

*Governor McDonnell Targets Abortion Funding (Video 2:16) (CBS6/WTVR.com)

McDonnell makes no vetoes to legislation (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Going fast more costly (Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star)

McDonnell amends 122 bills (Roanoke Times)

19 Baptist pastors criticize McDonnell (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Va. Episcopal hierarchy fights to keep church property (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Analysis

Tea Party Supporters Richer, More Educated Than Most, Poll Finds (FOXNews.com)

AP-GfK Poll: Obama slips, other Dems slide, too (AP/GOPUSA.com)

Poll shows resistance to health care bill rising (AP/GOPUSA.com)

National News

Tea Party leaders on alert for infiltrators (AP/GOPUSA.com)

Bunning endorses outsider Paul in Kentucky US Senate race (AP/GOPUSA.com)

RNC chairman: GOP wants to help black community (AP/GOPUSA.com)

Fla. governor Crist might run for Senate as independent (AP/GOPUSA.com)

Commentary

Establishment Terrified by Tea Party Movement (Matt Towery/GOPUSA.com)

GOP Should Push Tough Regulation of Wall Street (Michael Barone/GOPUSA.com)

William Ayers' Wyoming Debacle Highlights Leftist Weaknesses (Christopher G. Adamo/GOPUSA.com)

The Individual Mandate: We're All Amish Now (Jon N. Hall/GOPUSA.com)

Virginia News Stand: March 23, 2010

Annotations & Elucidations Suits And Budgets

The news is all about Virginia, as it always seems to be, as it has been for some years now. Must mean we're an important state. But Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's law suit against the federal government for its forced mandates on individuals is making headlines and he's making the rounds — on cable news — frequently: Fox News Channel multiple times, a viewer call-in on C-SPAN and even an appearance on DNC-TV, er, MSNBC.

The Wall Street Journal even says great things about Virginia, although the focus of the piece below is on our budget. By comparison the article notes, if Congress had just kept to its 2006 levels of spending, as the General Assembly did recently, the budget would be nearly in balance. Hmmm. 2006? Who's been running the show since then?

In Commentary, it's all about health care, with one of our generation's giants, Thomas Sowell, asking if we've reached a point of no return. We pray not. Michael Barrone, David Limbaugh and Debra Saunders also look at the dark side of the legislation. But it's not just "right wingers." The AP reports the the government is going to count our calories. Oh, how grand! Meanwhile, the Cornhusker Kid, Senator Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) now says he'll vote against the "reconciliation" bill. Also from the AP: The Supreme Court says it's fine for schools to ban music and that the Tea Party is just getting going. Watch out, liberals.

News

McDonnell backs Cuccinelli on challenge to health-care bill (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Virginia attorney general ready to challenge health-care law (Norfolk Virginian-Pilot)

South Carolina, Florida AGs say they'll join Cuccinelli in challenging health-care bill (The Daily Press)

Attorneys general in 14 states sue to block healthcare reform law (Christian Science Monitor)

Liberty Counsel, attorney general challenge health care bill (Lynchburg News & Advance)

Virginia Democrats say Cuccinelli suit wastes taxpayer money (Washington Post Virginia Politics Blog)

Will lower taxes create school crisis? (Charlottesville Daily Progress)

Analysis

States of Progress: Two new Governors tackle deficits without tax increases (Wall Street Journal)

National News

It's not over for Tea Party activists (AP/GOPUSA.com)

Health overhaul: Immediate change, long term steps (AP/GOPUSA.com)

Your government will count your calories (AP/GOPUSA.com)

Axelrod, Steele tangle on health care overhaul (AP/GOPUSA.com)

Court: Student can't sue over 'Ave Marie' ban (AP/GOPUSA.com)

Ben Nelson plans to vote against health care bill (AP/GOPUSA.com)

Commentary

A Point of No Return? (Thomas Sowell/GOPUSA.com)

The Beginning of the End or a Rebirth of Freedom? (David Limbaugh/GOPUSA.com)

Leadership for a New Generation (Doug Patton/GOPUSA.com)

The New Electorate (Jon N. Hall/GOPUSA.com)

ObamaCare Means: Don't Look Behind the Curtain (Debra Saunders/GOPUSA.com)

Stupak's 'Hans Brinker — Unmasked (Richard Olivastro/GOPUSA.com)

Health Plan Means Bigger Deficits and Higher Taxes (Michael Barrone/GOPUSA.com)

Virginia Budget: Is The Hour Near?

Based on dialogue on the House floor this afternoon, it's a 50-50 shot the budget will be agreed upon in time by conferees and printed for a vote tomorrow. It may go to Sunday. Even into next week. Which gives us time to renew our call for no new or additional fees or taxes. However, according to news reports this morning, there may be some backtracking on cutting the much over bloated education spending. Of course, the VEA is making wild claims about thousands of teachers losing their jobs. It must be noted, however, that spending on K-12 education in Virginia has increased 60 percent over the last 10 years while enrollment in public schools has increased only 7.2 percent. In 2004, the General Assembly infused public education with more than a billion dollars in additional funding — remember that tax increase? — with no reforms, and every two years the antiquated funding formula guarantees one billion dollars in extra taxpayer money into public education.

Interestingly, The Family Foundation participated in a poll last year with last year with renown Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, and found that a majority of Virginians vastly underestimate the amount of money Virginia spends per pupil on public education. While most thought it was less than $6,000, in fact it is in excess of $11,000 per student!

During the last budget process, as everyone recognized that we were in a deep economic recession, the General Assembly passed a budget based on then-Governor Tim Kaine's projection of significant increases in revenue. Such a notion was rightly dismissed as foolish by some legislators, but a budget laden with spending based on the fictitious numbers passed anyway. Now, we're paying the price in the form of a $4 billion deficit because even though the revenue was projected, the spending was real — Virginia's budget is based on estimated revenue, not actual receipts. So when the real money never showed up . . .

Yet, we're being told by some, we have to pay for their mistakes. The only one who should pay a price in this situation are those who spent the money — not those who supplied it. Tell your delegates and senators not to increase taxes and "fees" in the budget, and to cut its excessive spending to the levels of real revenue.

If you know who they are, you can get their contact info here for delegates and here for senators. If you don’t know who your delegate and senator are, click here.

General Assembly Must Tame Its Appetite For Tax And "Fee" Increases

Yesterday, we asked you to contact your delegates and senators and urge them to support the three vital budget amendments that ban state funding for the partisan political organization Planned Parenthood, as well as the ones that ban embryonic stem cell research (which has not produced one medical advance) and elective abortions (Virginia funded 322 such abortions in 2006-2007). Today, we urge you to take action on the other side of the ledger. While we want to hold government spending to essential core services that fit the proper role of government — and eliminate excessive spending, especially for nefarious groups and causes — we also must make clear to our representatives that we are over taxed. In their work to close the $4 billion state budget deficit, our senators and delegates must know that they cannot bridge that gap on the backs of families, individuals and businesses who are struggling in this very tough economy.

The truth of the matter is that we have a "spending surplus" — not a deficit from a lack of revenue. In fact, if lawmakers are so concerned about the deficit, they should look at themselves before they do the taxpayers. The General Assembly has doubled spending in the Virginia budget over the last 10 years, several times the rates of inflation and population growth combined! But those facts don’t get in the way of special interest, big-government lobbyists who, unfortunately, have a lot of influence at the capitol. They will use every weapon in their arsenal to jack up taxes to pay for their pet projects and programs.

One weapon is the myth that public education is getting cut to the bone and that tax increases are necessary "for the children." However, spending on K-12 education in Virginia has increased by 60 percent over the last 10 years while enrollment in public schools has increased only 7.2 percent; and 60 percent of the budget is dedicated to education and health care. But the Senate (SB 30) and House (HB 30) budgets have $300 million and $76 million in tax and fee increases, respectively. When does it end?

The Senate budget increases the 911 "fee" on every cel phone and landline to pay for 911 centers. Two problems: The increased revenue won’t go to 911 centers and the "fee" as the Senate would have you believe, is defined as a tax in the Code of Virginia — and that’s just the beginning of what lawmakers want to do to you.

It’s time for lawmakers to do what Virginia families and job creators are doing — cut expenses! We can’t make money appear out of nowhere and the General Assembly shouldn’t try. Instead, it should tame its unabated appetite for hard-earned tax payer income.

Please contact your delegate and senator immediately and urge them to reject increased taxes and fees on Virginia families, individuals and businesses in the new budget .

If you know who they are, you can get their contact info here for delegates and here for senators. If you don’t know who your delegate and senator are, click here.

BREAKING NEWS: Statement Of Governor Bob McDonnell On House And Senate Budget Amendments

The House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Finance Committee released their budgets this afternoon (the Senate doing so despite rumors they would fail to craft one due to internal bickering among the Democrat majority's factions) and Governor Bob McDonnellhas just released his statement on the two proposals. Interestingly, contrary to his conciliatory tone at his news conference last week, where he politely disagreed with former Governor Tim Kaine's proposed budget, and where he said Mr. Kaine sincerely believed he submitted a good budget, but that the the two simply had an honest disagreement, the new governor came out swinging today. Check out the first quote in his statement.

Statement of Governor Bob McDonnell on House and Senate Budget Amendments 

RICHMOND - Governor Bob McDonnell issued the following statement this evening regarding the budget amendments released today by the House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Finance Committee.

I commend the leadership and members of the House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Finance Committee for producing their budgets today. Due to the dire economic situation facing our Commonwealth this is an extraordinarily difficult budget cycle. It was further exacerbated by the previous Administration’s inclusion in their introduced budget of a $2 billion tax hike that was quickly dismissed by a 97-0 bipartisan vote in the House of Delegates. The proposed tax increase, which had no possibility of passage, simply put off until now the full challenge of closing a $4.2 billion cumulative shortfall.

For the past month we have met often with legislative leaders to discuss the budget in great detail, choosing a framework of bipartisan collaboration over dictation. I have laid out three major priorities for this budget: it must be done on time, not contain any general tax increases, and invest, even in a difficult fiscal environment, in job creation and economic development measures imperative to a successful recovery. The budget amendments from both bodies advance two of these priorities, and I am pleased by the common ground our partnership has produced.

Additionally, the House has put forward amendments advancing our job creation and economic development proposals. I am optimistic that the Senate will also support these smart investments in Virginia’s economic future as the budget process continues. There are other differences, some significant, over the specifics of the recommendations made by both Committees, and those put forward by our Administration. However, with today’s action we have taken a step in the right direction.

The parameters governing the budget making process from this point forward are set. We will work together across party lines to cut spending while not raising taxes. As we do this, we will not forget that the reductions we make, while necessary for the future prosperity and vitality of our Commonwealth, will mean real hardships in the near term for many of our citizens. There are no easy choices in closing the $4 billion budget shortfall that is unparalleled in Virginia history.

In the weeks ahead, I look forward to continuing to work with the House and Senate budget conferees in every manner by which this Administration can be helpful. I have great confidence that in the midst of the most difficult budgetary period in modern Virginia history we will pass a balanced budget on time, as the citizens of Virginia sent us here to do.

Virginia News Stand: January 4, 2010

Annotations & Elucidations Even On New Year's Day . . .

The News Stand is back after a Christmas/New Year's break. Not much comment today. With a new administration and two months of General Assembly upcoming, there will be plenty of news upon which to comment in the days and weeks ahead. For now, take a look at some articles of interest to ween you back into the Virginia political mindset: The Wall Street Journal's Brendan Miniter profiles Governor-elect Bob McDonnell while the Richmond Times-Dispatch and Roanoke Times bid adieu to Governor Tim Kaine; the Washington Times examines McDonnell's call to eliminate the governor's one term limit; the Washington Post looks areas of the Virginia budget that may no longer be sacrosanct from cuts; and the AP reports that 13 attorneys general, including outgoing Virginia AG Bill Mims, are  threatening a lawsuit over the pending nationalized health care legislation — and they are not all "red" state AGs, either. We anticipate that Attorney General-elect Ken Cuccinelli will continue Virginia's participation in the proceedings should the legislation become law.  

But, just to show you it's always something around here, in case you missed it, CNN called us for a New Year's Day interview regarding the Isabella Miller custody case. So, below, we posted the video of the report which includes reporter Mary Snow's interview with Family Foundation President Victoria Cobb.

News:

Back to GOP Basics (Wall Street Journal Online)

Parts of Virginia's budget may no longer be off-limits (Washington Post)

Kaine had wins but took some lumps as governor (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

A term of crisis: Gov. Tim Kaine exit interview (Roanoke Times)

Va. GOP names new executive director (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Va.'s McDonnell seeks end to term limit (Washington Times)

Va. mom fails to hand over daughter in custody dispute (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

National:

13 attorneys general threaten suit over health care (AP/Roanoke Times)

Video:

*Lesbian Custody Battle (2:13) (CNN.com)

Family Foundation President Victoria Cobb speaks to CNN on New Year's Day about Lisa Miller apparently running away with her daughter, Isabella. 

Virginia News Stand: July 1, 2009

Happy New Year! You're asking, "What?" Today, my friends, is Virginia's New Year's Day, when the budget for the fiscal year and new laws take effect. Many headlines, predictably, are about the news laws. Not only are many of the 800-plus new laws mundane, but they overshadow what might be a huge campaign issue: What to do with VITA and Northrop Grumman? The Richmond Times-Dispatch today reports that state government has reversed itself and is calling for NG to do some 'splainin' and demanded answers and remedies for serious breakdowns in its delivery of IT services to the commonwealth, and threatened legal action. This is becoming a bigger mess by the day, and will only morph from big to gigantic. The reader comments below the article are telling. One wonders if Governor Tim Kaine is aware or is he's in Miami or Kansas City or Los Angeles working on his night job. 

Other than that, most of the news is out of state: Our neighbors to the north are giving homosexual couples a tax break, while our neighbors to the south are mum on a homosexual rape of a minor black boy by a male Duke professor. It is in stark contrast to the presumption of guilt by its administration toward four lacrosse players a few years ago when they were accused of raping a black woman. Another example of politically correct intolerance and corruption infesting our campuses.

Meanwhile, a black minister and former NFL star says there is "no truth" at all in the pandering speech President Barack Obama gave earlier this week to homosexual activists. Throwing yet another bone to the homosexual lobby, the president is not appealing a $500,000 discrimination ruling in favor of a transsexual against the Library of Congress. After all, it's only tax money. More of that everywhere. As for the principle of it all. ... What?

News:

State accuses Northrop Grumman of breach (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Many new state laws are in effect today (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

New Laws Tackle Land, Gun Rights (Harrisonburg Daily News-Record)

Prohibition On Texting By Drivers Starts in Va. (Washington Post)

National News:

New Md. tax law gives gay couples a break (Washington Times)

Term Saw High Court Move to The Right (Washington Post)

Duke's homosexual rape case elicits silence (OneNewsNow.com)

'No truth' in Obama's speech before homosexuals (OneNewsNow.com)

Obama White House not appealing transgender ruling (AP/OneNewsNow.com)

Virginia News Stand: December 17, 2008

As one might expect, the state budget dominates state news today and will, most likely, from now and throughout the General Assembly's short session, which commences January 14. We have it covered below, with a few political articles of interest thrown in, as well as an eye-popping commentary by Brian Kirwin from Bearing Drift. And, could there be an upset in the special election for Brian Moran's recently resigned House seat in heavily liberal Alexandria? A Washington Post reporter says it's possible. News:

Kaine would double cigarette tax (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Kaine expected to push for hike in cigarette tax (The Daily Press)

Kaine proposes cuts, cigarette tax increase (Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star)

Gov. Kaine to propose big cuts, doubling of cigarette tax (Norfolk Virginian-Pilot)

Kaine's budget plan is divulged (Roanoke Times)

Md., Va. Eye Even Deeper Cutbacks (Washington Post)

Richmonder eyes lieutenant governor race (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Lawmakers, Business Leaders Sound Alarm (Harrisonburg Daily News-Record)

Legislators foresee tough fiscal future (Winchester Star)

Norfolk delegate to lead caucus (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Opinion/Analysis:

Bearing Drift on Patrick Muldoon's LG campaign (Bearing Drift)

Tim Craig Sees Potential Upset In 46th Dist. Race (Virginia Virtucon)

One Sacred Cow That Needs A Diet: Virginia's Department of Education

Later this week, members of the House of Delegates and Senate (contact here) will gather in separate enclaves in Virginia to discuss the Commonwealth's estimated $2.5 billion "shortfall" in budget revenue (see recent post). Much of the problem stems from exaggerated revenue projections when the economy was clearly headed for a recession. As we cut our family and business budgets, there aren't many things that are off limits. Unfortunately, that isn't necessarily true for government. Can you guess which Virginia department's budget is described by these facts?

» $4-5 billion more than any other department's annual budget;

» 39 percent of the 2007 budget; and

» Structurally designed to prevent budget reductions or even slow budget increases.

If you guessed Virginia's Department of Education, congratulations! You won. But so has the DOE under our current budget structure — and has won for many years.

Consider these two statistics (it's stat day at FFblog):

» DOE was 39 percent of the state's budget in 2007, but its budget increase from 2007 to 2008 accounted for 57 percent of the total state budget increase. It's important to note that enrollment did not increase by such magnitude!

» Unless altered, the DOE's budget will increase another 6 percent in 2009.

Even with its rapid budget increases, however, Governor Tim Kaine (contact here) has already stated that, despite the revenue shortfall, public education is off the table in the current round of budget reductions.

In fact, even when legislators hint at simply reducing the rate of increase for public education, the maelstrom of anger from the Virginia Education Association (see previous comments) and other educrat entities quickly subdues elected officials. DOE's state budget is increasing 18 percent more than what would be proportionally expected. 

Not all departments have the same good fortune as DOE. For example, from 2007 to 2008, the Department of Natural Resources experienced a 36 percent decrease in its budget. Even the technology department, a department many would expect to have an expanding budget due to development and growth in the field, was relegated to a 6 percent decrease from 2007 to 2008.

The annual boost in DOE's budget is driven by a faulty and antiquated Standards of Quality formula (see previous comments), which increases funding due to growth in hiring as opposed to growth in student achievement or enrollment. Virginia is, in fact, one of only four states that funds public education based on staffing and not on number of students. Even in school districts with decreasing enrollment, funding increases!

Without a revision of the SOQ formula, DOE's budget will continue to rise year after year at an exponentially higher rate than we can hope to sustain (see previous comments). We can continue to adequately fund public education but not at the rate that the VEA demands. Simply put, we cannot continue to increase spending in this area by $1 billion every biennium without a massive tax hike. Of course, some in Richmond know that and will push for that increase in the "name of the children" eventually. To oppose such an increase will be deemed anti-child.

In this time of economic uncertainty, it is even more important that government be fiscally responsible. The Department of Education's budget should be just as vulnerable to state budget adjustments as any other department in order to return Virginia to economic stability. Education funding should be tied to education outcomes. Virginia's Standards of Learning do not in anyway influence funding, although they most certainly should factor into the equation. 

There are two ways to fix our ailing education system in Virginia — fix the SOQs and provide families with the freedom to choose the school, public or private, that suits their needs (more school choice and options). We cannot continue to fund public education without public accountability.

Quote Of The Day

In a Daily Press article yesterday (click here) about the commonwealth's deteriorating budget and financial situation, Delegate Phil Hamilton (R-93, Newport News), chairman of the House Committee on Health, Welfare and Institutions, as well as vice chairman of the Appropriations Committee provided a classic one-liner:

"I hope that we actually have an open, honest and candid discussion about the expenditures we make. There are a lot of sacred cows in the budget. In some cases, the farmers have left, and the cows are still doing well."

Here's hoping for a few less cows. Norm Leahy at Tertium Quids has some thoughts as to which and whose cows should get gored (click here). Or at least diet some. After all, isn't that what we humans have to do when our budgets are tight? 

Is The Governor Fiddling, Part 2/Quote Of The Day

Two weeks ago we asked if Governor Tim Kaine was fiddling around with national politics while Richmond and the Virginia budget was burning (click here) because he was running around the country campaigning for Democrat presidential candidate Barack Obama. We're not the only ones who think so. Today, The Washington Times (click here) ran a feature on what the governor's schedule has been like in recent weeks. Among the states he's visited: Georgia, Iowa, Indiana and Texas, Colorado and Arizona. Which prompted this comment in The Times from House Majority Leader Morgan Griffith (R-8, Salem):

He clearly has spent almost as much time out of the state as he has in the state. I think we're going to find a lot of little things that he probably should have been on top of.

One of those "little things" is "chaplain-gate" which Griffith notes had been brewing for several weeks. The out of balance Virginia budget may be another. Although many claim the governor's budget was out of whack from the beginning or, at the very least, he wasn't paying attention to it because of his campaigning, he claims in The Times article that the national economy is to blame. (Funny how the national economy gets no credit when times are good, eh, governor?)

The governor says he has good people in place and gives them latitude to run the government. How does this explain Jody Wagner, his former finance secretary, who produced the bogus numbers upon which he based his budget? Also, if true, why elect a governor? Let's just keep these good people in place for life.

Delegate Bill Janis (R-56, Glen Allen), who has claimed that Kaine called this past summer's special session of the General Assembly to raise his national political profile in order to wedge his way onto Senator Obama's ticket, however, earns our coveted Quote of the Day. As he told The Times:

I think he's abandoned any pretense of trying to be the governor. At least Nero stayed in Rome and fiddled while it burned. He's out in Colorado.

Just as we said two weeks ago. The other difference Kaine has with Nero is that he not only fiddled during the fire, he started the fire as well. Now the question is, does the governor have the will, the poise, the sound judgement, the willingness to be bi-partisan — the time off the campaign trail — to grab a hose and put out the fire — not to mention tend to the other matters at hand?

Virginia University Gets Grant To Teach Capitalism

We don't know if — in this day and age of "spreading the wealth around" and taxing to death middle-class working families, family-owned businesses, entrepreneurs and regular folks who aspire to build or buy their own business, and government intervention into everything else — the recent announcement that Radford University soon will offer courses in capitalism is heartening news or not. On the one hand, we're glad someone is taking the initiative, especially at the university level, where so much seems to be left-wing, politically correct dogma and indoctrination, to teach what this country was built on — free-market, free-enterprise capitalism. On the other hand, given that it is at a university, are we sure free-market capitalism will be taught by people who believe in it?

Most importantly, however, why isn't capitalism already taught there and, since it must not be if this is a new program, what does pass for economic academics there?

We do rest assured about one thing: this new economics program, which will focus on global competitiveness, is off to a good start because it is funded by a $750,000 grant from banking giant BB&T. Why does that assure us? Simple: BB&T Chief Executive Officer John Allison, the company's CEO since 1986 (despite the average bank CEO tenure of about four years), has a stellar and principled track record.

For starters, in the wake of the deplorable U.S. Supreme Court Kelo decision which allowed local governments to seize private property and give it to other private entities, he created a policy that BB&T would not finance any developments on land taken by such cruel means. More recently, he's been a great steward of his company — with a policy of not providing the type of risky loans that have blown up the housing market and our financial system, leaving his bank in excellent condition; which also means he's not taking any of our tax money from the government bailout of those who practiced irresponsible and/or predatory lending practices. He did all this while driving the bank from regional to national status.

The BB&T grant also includes the BB&T Global Capitalism Reading Area in McConnell Library and a BB&T Global Distinguished Lecture Series. While it makes sense that a business committed to free-market capitalism would fund this type of program — that it may be in its self-interest to do so — it also is vastly disappointing that the state must rely on it to do so. With the hundreds of millions of Virginia tax dollars going to higher education, not to mention families' money for tuition, it also is in the commonwealth's self-interest to teach capitalism correctly (given our own budget debacle). We can see the mess societies get themselves into when they don't. Just ask B&T's competitors. Just ask yourself where $1 trillion of your tax money has just been appropriated. 

Ekaineomics: The Poor, The Starving . . . The Government

Jesus said the poor will always be with us. That's not good news for those who think the size of government is huge and would like to see much of it go away, because state government now considers itself among the poor. So says Governor Tim Kaine. According to his excellency, higher gas prices are causing people to buy less gas which means . . . (drum roll, please) . . . less gas tax revenue! But wait: Don't liberals want us to use less gas so we won't pollute and melt the polar ice caps? What are they going to do when we move to hydrogen powered cars? There will be no gas left to tax! Poor liberals.

Aside from that inconsistency, we hope Governor Kaine learns from this some basic economics: The more expensive a good or service, the less of it is purchased. So adding taxes to the plethora of items outlined in his recent tax scheme will make those items more expensive. How does he see this as good for Virginia?

Now, more ekaineomics: He recently told The Richmond Times-Dispatch that the meat of state government was down to the bone:

"Obviously, we've been through two rounds of expense tightening," the governor said. "One in November, where I reduced the state budget by $300 million cutting expenses. And then in February I had to do a $1.4 billion reduction in the prospective two-year budget," he added.

"Obviously"? Who would have known, what with a budget of $78 billion, more than twice what it was 10 years ago, with new programs launched just this year, such as an expansion of a Pre-K program for which there was no demand. He gets around to admitting his "cuts" were really scale-backs of proposed increases, not actual reductions in programs, although he couched them as cuts.

Without doubt, higher gas prices have increased the cost of government, especially for necessary services such as state police and school bus transportation, as well as for operating state buildings — offices, prisons and colleges, for example.

"But we also have a revenue effect," said Kaine. "As gas prices go up, people drive fewer miles, and that reduces revenues to the state's transportation fund."

Kaine said he saw a recent statistic that showed Americans drove 11 billion fewer miles in the month of March than they did during March of last year. "So what we will see is increasing costs everywhere in state government and fewer transportation dollars," he added.

But it's not only the state. Localities are claiming the poor house blues, too. Several counties have refused to lower their real estate taxes, meaning higher revenues as the old rates are applied to properties with ever increasing assessments. In Richmond, Councilman Marty Jewell, Mayor Doug Wilder's one reliable ally, was the dissenter in an 8-1 vote to reduce the property tax by 3 cents to $1.20 of assessed value, from the current $1.23. (It should have rolled back to $1.18 to remain revenue neutral.) Despite campaign promises, the mayor was opposed to any tax reductions. According to the Times-Dispatch, Jewell, echoing the mayor, said it was too large a cut given the struggling economy because the city needs the money.

So the city and state need the money? What about the hard-working Virginians supplying the money?

But in the face of all this government poorness, some agencies are living large. As Robin Beres of the T-D discovered, two of Virginia's largest universities spent nearly $3 million in catering services just in the first three quarters of the 2008 fiscal year. (Read the article here, but note a typo: she means billions, not millions, in her state budget totals). In Fiscal Year 2007, various institutes of higher learning in the Commonwealth spent $250,000 alone at Richmond's grand hotel, The Jefferson. One college spent $30,000 at the Country Club of Virginia.

But that's just the fun stuff she found. It's well documented that the budget has grown from $15.5 billion in 1998 to $39 billion in the second year of Governor Kaine's two-year budget. But why? One reason she cites is payroll. U.S. Census statistics show Virginia as the 12 largest state with 7.7 million residents. North Carolina, the 10th largest state, has more than 9 million. However, Virginia has 122,000 full-time government employees to North Carolina's 93,000. Yet, we hear from the administration that Virginia government is strapped and we have to raise taxes. Wonder why.

Plainly put: If transportation, or any function government deems necessary, is in crisis, those in charge need to prioritize. Crisis situations get put to the top. Crises are solved with what you have at that moment because crises don't wait; by definition, if it could, it's not a crisis. So if Governor Kaine, Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D-35, Springfield) and the other liberals are sincere about solving the transportation crisis, they would stop trying to score political points, prioritize spending and cut just a little more than 1 percent of the $78 billion in the current two year budget and put that toward transportation (i.e., re-appropriate the last $1 billion in the budget).

It is disingenuous to say a budget that large cannot be cut. Not everything the government spends on is a priority, to say the least. Let there be no mistake: Funds are not lacking in Virginia. Perhaps truthfulness and leadership are.