Tim Kaine didn’t run for governor in 2005 promising to cut the state budget to the bone, but that’s pretty much what he had to do as the state faced down the recession a year into his term.
The key lesson that he learned: You can’t do across-the-board cuts.
“Everything isn’t worth everything else,” said Kaine, a candidate for the Democratic Party nomination for the United States Senate. “Some things you cut deeply, some things you maybe completely let go. But other things, you either cut a little, or even put more money into them, because you’ve got to always be investing as you go.”
Another lesson learned: cut for tomorrow, not for today.
“Think about where you’ll be four, five years down the road, and make cuts based on, We might not need that then, but we might need more early-childhood education, we might need more mental-health funding. You’ve got to put more money into things that are going to be important down the road,” Kaine said.
Kaine would be among a small subset of those in the United States Senate with experience making significant cuts as a government executive. Perhaps that’s why you won’t hear him siding with members on both sides of the aisle who have taken on the attitude that “deficits don’t matter.”
“I’m in the completely ‘they matter’ category,” Kaine said.
There’s an economic argument, Kaine concedes, that focusing on budget balancing when unemployment is high and demand is weak can be detrimental to the economy.
“But I believe very deeply that we need to be getting on a path to balancing the budget,” Kaine said, citing the economic growth of the 1990s that came as a result of bipartisan efforts in Washington to balance the federal budget.