Assembly 2011: Virginia Senate and House pass budgets, McDonnell pushes for balanced federal budget
Yesterday, the House and Senate passed their respective amendments to the biennial budget ... and Governor Bob McDonnell introduced a measure that would petition Congress to adopt a balanced federal budget requirement.
After years of declining revenues, Virginia is finally seeing modest increases in tax collections and, unlike the previous few sessions, budget debate this year primarily focuses on where to spend new money as opposed to where to cut.
The Senate’s adopted spending plan, which passed 37 to 3, used much of the new revenue for Medicaid and education, while the House voted 69 to 28 to pass their budget amendments, which includes Governor McDonnell’s proposal to dedicate 150 million dollars of the additional funds to road construction.
Democratic Delegate and Minority Leader Ward Armstrong of Henry County, speaking against the budget.
Armstrong: I don’t recall in 20 years of maybe seeing a more striking contrast between the two sides of the aisle than this budget, and while, yes, we’ve repeated the message today that transportation is important, but I’m not prepared to take from children, from mental health, from schools, from police, in order to fund it. You distill this down and that’s what this vote is about. Can we use roads? Of course. Heaven help us, those roads would help, but no, you can't take funding from schools, from mental health and from police in order to do it. There's the contrast, there's the difference, there's where we disagree.
Republican Delegate and Majority Leader Kirk Cox of Colonial Heights.
Cox: Let me tell you what people were saying in this last election. They were saying that 'we basically want you to do the budget like we do our budget. We have obligations, meet 'em', so if you basically have a rainy day fund, the Constitution is the first thing that you've got to fund, you need to do it. It's totally irresponsible not to, and that's one of the things we've built into our budget. Number two, accelerated sales tax, 111 million, something that has hurt our retailers, is in this budget. As a matter of fact, if you look at the debt in this budget, we've actually eliminated over a hundred million dollars, so this is a structurally sound budget. Who is not for K-12, higher ed and health? The same arguments all the time about that issue just falls rather insincere, to be blunt. You're gonna have a choice in about a week on another budget, a budget that has incredible debt in it, over 600 million dollars actually funded a replacement General Assembly, so is that where you want to go? That budget basically does nothing on accelerated sales tax, punts the rainy day fund down the road and only does twenty million. That is not what people told us to do in November. This budget does not cut kids, it funds K-12 adequately. There's money for higher ed, there's money for iv waivers; we had to make choices and I think we made a lot of very, very good choices.
The House and Senate spending plans will now cross the hall, where they will be rejected by the opposite chamber and conference committees will work out the details, in all likelihood in time for the scheduled adjournment on February 25th.
In other news, Governor Bob McDonnell is asking the legislature for a formal request that the U.S. Congress institute a balanced budget requirement.
McDonnell: I’ve recently had discussions well after the beginning of the session with both Senator Cornyn and Congressman Goodlatte; they are the two patrons of the balanced budget amendment in the United States Congress and after discussing it with them I felt, as they did, that it would be very helpful to have a show of support from states that believe, as I do, that our federal deficit that increases by a trillion dollars plus a year is unsustainable and our long term national debt that is now at 14 trillion dollars and growing, is not only unsustainable, but immoral. We are leveraging our kids' future with that and it has to change and the only way that I, the best way that I know how to do that is to make a statement that the Congress and the Federal government ought to operate the same way that 49 states do, and that is to require a balanced budget. I mean, for me, it’s inconceivable that you could manage a government without having a balanced budget. That’s what we do. That’s been Democrat and Republican governors and legislatures forever have operated under that premise, so until Congress is forced to live within its means and be able to do what every kindergartner in America understands you have to do and that is, you can't spend more money than you have for any sustained period of time, you go broke. The situation's not getting any better at the federal level; I hate to say it's been Republicans and Democrats over the last decades that share responsibility for that, increasing the national debt.
Craig Carper, WCVE News, Capitol Square