augusta free press news

Virginia: Kaine announces budget cuts

Story by Chris Graham

Gov. Tim Kaine wants to balance the fiscal-year 2009 state budget with $348 million in state-agency cuts, the utilization of $400 million from the state’s Rainy Day Fund and the bonding of $250 million in capital projects that the state had been planning to pay for with cash.

The measures involving the use of the Rainy Day Fund and the bonding of already-approved capital projects have to be approved by the General Assembly, which Kaine feels will have to come to protect against possible cuts in funding from the state for local K-12 public education and for public safety.

(View Kaine’s proposed stabilization plan here.)

“While no agency can expect complete exemption from cuts, it is important to protect crucial state services as much as possible,” Kaine said today. “By employing the Revenue Stabilization Fund, we can avoid fiscal year 2009 cuts in K-12 education. This action avoids a devastating impact on classrooms with the school year already under way.”

The early indication from legislative leaders is that it might be possible to get some positive movement in that area. House Speaker Bill Howell, R-Stafford, said House Republicans “stand ready to work cooperatively with the Kaine administration to find the savings necessary to balance the $77 billion biennial state budget. While difficult budget decisions confront us in Richmond, these challenges cannot overwhelm and must not overcome our ability to work constructively on the people’s business,” Howell said.

Howell did also say it is early in the review process. “This afternoon is the first chance Republican legislators have had to examine the administration’s proposed cuts. As we examine them and learn more of the details, we will have further reactions and likely will offer other ideas to add to the discussion of how Virginia’s government should deal with this situation,” Howell said. “However, the current budget circumstances do present an ideal opportunity to determine what the core services of government are, and to refocus Virginia’s spending priorities accordingly. Trimming bureaucracy and rooting out unessential and wasteful spending will certainly help and must be pursued aggressively. But we must not avoid instituting overdue structural reforms that will truly align state spending with limited taxpayer dollars,” Howell said.

Bath County Democratic Sen. Creigh Deeds, a candidate for the ’09 Democratic Party gubernatorial nomination, for his part urged his colleagues in the state legislature to “continue working with his administration in a bipartisan fashion to get through this economic downturn.”

“Much work remains to ensure our fiscal house stays in order,” Deeds said. “We can’t allow partisanship and inside-the-beltway gimmicks to turn back the progress started under Gov. Mark Warner and continued in the Kaine administration to reform our budget and fund important priorities. The governor has taken the first step of proposing responsible reductions in state spending – including within his own office, salary, and the executive mansion. The legislature must not shirk our responsibility and consider this a problem to be avoided; this is a challenge that, working together, we can use as an opportunity to ensure the fiscal stability of our state budget for generations to come,” Deeds said.