House of Delegates Appropriations
The House Appropriations committee held a lengthy meeting yesterday as Governor Kaine’s 2010-2012 budget was reviewed in detail. While Governor Kaine’s budget was introduced in mid-December, the meeting gave legislators a more specific look at how the latest round of cuts will be apportioned, as House appropriations staffers brief committee members on specific cuts made to various State departments.
While Governor Kaine’s budget was introduced in mid-December, the meeting gave legislators a more specific look at how the latest round of cuts will be apportioned, as House appropriations staffers brief committee members on specific cuts made to various State departments. Republican Delegate Chris Jones represents parts of Suffolk and Chesapeake.
Jones: We’ve got a very difficult task ahead of us. Governor Kaine’s budget cuts about 2.3 billion additional dollars in existing programs and revenue. As we begin the work next week we have a lot to do.
Democratic Delegate Bob Brink of Arlington agrees.
Brink: This confirms what the Governor’s been saying and what we’ve been looking at for the past six months, which means that we are in the most serious economic downturn that we’ve had in this generation and it’s going to take major steps to get out of it.
In December Kaine introduced a two-year budget that balanced a 4.2 billion-dollar deficit. But Kaine leaves office Saturday and both the Republican majority in the House of Delegates and Governor-Elect Bob McDonnell have pledged to rewrite the budget in a way that does not increase taxes, which will mean more cuts. In Wednesday’s pretaped Republican response, House Majority Leader Morgan Griffith said Kaine was effectively delivering an unbalanced budget because he knew that his proposal to repeal the car tax relief program was dead on arrival. Delegate Brink said that he would be supporting an alternative measure that Gov. Kaine introduced separate from the budget.
Brink: The Governor didn’t fund car tax reimbursement in his budget. He put in a bill which I’m going to be carrying to increase the personal income tax by one percent in order to replace that. If that’s not agreed to by the General Assembly then it’s going to our job to go back in and find an additional billion dollars of cuts in each year. That’s going to be a major task. The Governor did all that he could in good conscience in terms of cuts and I don’t know where we go frankly to find an additional billion dollars every year.
Delegate Jones says that he is optimistic this can be reconciled.
Jones: We’ve got another 2 billion dollars to deal with because of the car tax issue and there will be a lot of long meetings, hopefully a lot of good discussion and debate about what we ought to do. I think that my main takeaway is that if it’s a core service of the government, we’ll do all that we can do to protect it, but that if it’s not a core service there’s probably a good chance it’s not going to have as much funding as it had before the budget was introduced.
While no one wanted to talk specifics about where additional cuts will likely be felt within state agencies, Delegate Jones had a few broad ideas.
Jones: Certainly Health and Human Resources is a huge part of our budget, so is K-12, and they comprise over 50-60 percent of our budget, I believe. And I feel certain that we are going to have to take additional reductions in those areas. Now where we take those reductions I can’t really tell you. As the subcommittees start their work, which we will next week, we’ll have a much better idea in about two or three weeks as to, you know, where we are and what position we’re in as to conditions of the budget at that point in time.
While all parties agree that the work of passing and operating a budget must occur, there is uncertainty as to whether the legislators will be able to complete their task within the 60-day session.
Craig Carper, WCVE News, Capital Square