Assembly 2011: Public broadcasting funding debate continues, and legislators shoot hoops for Massey
The House and Senate are at odds over Governor McDonnell’s proposal to eliminate funding for public broadcasting, and lawmakers went to the basketball court last night to raise money for the Massey Cancer Center. Craig Carper reports.
As budget negotiators work to reach a compromise on amending the state’s two-year spending plan, one of the items up for debate is funding for public broadcasting. The House of Delegates budget accepts the Governor’s amendment to zero out state funding for public tv and radio, while the Senate budget restores cuts made in previous years.
State support for public broadcasting in Virginia comes from two funds; the larger of the two is earmarked for education in public schools and the other goes toward general expenses.
Republican Delegate Bob Tata of Virginia Beach.
Republican House Majority Leader and Budget Conferee Kirk Cox of Colonial Heights.
Cox: It’s not so much that we don’t think PBS offers some good programming. I think a lot of the things they do in the schools now, frankly, are not unique anymore. But, it's just one of those decisions of, you've gotta fund intellectually-disabled waivers, the OJs come down and said you've gotta do that, a very important thing. Obviously, the Senate is saying we didn’t do enough in K-12, I mean, to fund public broadcasting is just a matter of choices, and if I recall, their funding mix for the state is, I don't know, 15-20 percent. But I think some people are under the impression that the funding piece from the state is something like 50, 60, 70 percent; it’s not. I mean, they’re already raising a lot from private foundations and those various things, so we just felt like we couldn’t continue that. It’s not that we don’t think they have a valuable service, it’s just not a core function of government.
Once you start with the philosophy that the item is 2.8 million or whatever and that since that’s not very big, to leave it alone, I think that’s why you’ve had expanded budgets in Washington. When you start doing those kinds of programs, eventually they build and they tend to multiply in the budget.
Republican Senator Fred Quayle of Suffolk.
Quayle: My public broadcasting station down in Hampton Roads, WHRO, provides so much educational material for the school systems, some 750 thousand dollars, I think, is what they get from the state and they can multiply about ten times in the value that they provide for the school systems, so that’s the main reason that I wanted to keep the program in existence. I think that the bang that we get for that buck is too big to expect the same kind of results from private sponsorship.
Democratic Senator Henry Marsh of Richmond.
Marsh: It’s very informative and for someone in elected office, it’s almost necessary to watch public television. Studies show that those young people who have the opportunity to watch public television score much better and do much better in school academically than children who don’t. And I disagree with the notion that public television is not a core function, it doesn't serve a core function; you can’t use normal ads in order to survive, it needs public assistance.
There are a lot of young people who don’t have access to cable television and of course, you can get public broadcasting whether you have cable or not, so that’s the big opportunity for a lot of low-income people. So public television serves a function of exposing them to knowledge and travel and culture and it helps children develop, so it’s necessary. I would hate to imagine a culture without public television. It would be dismal. So I hope we continue to support it. It’s a worthwhile investment.
The budget conferees now have just three days to reach an agreement on public broadcasting funding and all other budget amendments in order to report them to the floor in time for Saturday’s scheduled adjournment.
In other news, yesterday evening, legislators, lobbyists, the Attorney General, and the Governor and his staff met at VCU's Siegel Center for the annual Capitol Square Basketball Classic. Legislators have been playing the game every year for almost three decades, but in recent years have used it as a fundraiser for the Massey Cancer Research Center.
This year two games were played. First, the Governor and his staff faced off against a group of state lobbyists.
Last year, Governor McDonnell’s team lost to the lobbyists 28 to 18; while they narrowed their margin this year, they still lost 34 to 31.
Governor McDonnell later reflected on the game.
McDonnell: It was better this year, but still pretty mediocre. About 30 years ago I could play this game with these young guys, but it's really about just having fun and getting some cardiovascular exercise, but most importantly, raising some money for a marvelous hospital and cancer center, and that is the Massey Cancer Center. The legislature put about 5 million dollars in the budget to help them become one of the best cancer centers in all of America this year. It’s a great source of pride for the state and we look forward to great research coming out of that center that will save lives.
Following the Governor’s game, members of the House of Delegates beat the Senate 29 to 13, continuing their multi-year winning streak.
Republican Delegate Chris Jones of Suffolk.
Jones: We’ve been fortunate for a couple of years, it wasn't always that way, I’ll just leave it at that. It was a lot of fun. We raised over 10,000 dollars again this year and it goes to a great cause. And of course, each side gets a few ringers to come in and play. We get tired running up and down the court, you know, we kind of substitute like hockey. You don't call time, you just kind of do a high-five when they come in for you.
Craig Carper, WCVE News, Capitol Square