Local Commentary

Delegate Scott’s Richmond Report

mmwhipplemugEach year in the spring, Mary Margaret Whipple, Bob Hull and I look forward to the annual legislative update we jointly give to the Greater Merrifield Business Association and the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce at a noon luncheon at the Italian Café on Lee Highway.

Each of us makes a brief opening statement about legislative actions of interest to each. Next, all attendees are urged to ask questions about Virginia’s budget and legislative actions. The sessions usually last for an hour and provide ample opportunity for give and take.

As in the past, there was considerable interest in the budget. This year’s budget discussion centered on the shortfall caused by the economic downturn.

Since Virginia’s Governor cannot serve two consecutive terms, there was some interest in how a lame duck governor might handle the increasing budget deficit. We pointed out that he already has the authority to reduce agency spending to prevent a deficit by the end of the current fiscal year on June 30.

This year’s amendments to the biennial budget introduced by Governor Kaine in December 2007 included sharp cuts across the board and made it possible to have a surplus of approximately $160 million in anticipation of further revenue shortfalls in the fiscal year beginning on July 1 (Fiscal Year 2010).

Even with that surplus, however, more reductions will be necessary. In December, Governor Kaine will submit his budget recommendations for fiscal years 2011 and 2012, which will begin on July 1, 2011.

Such a system puts the next governor at a disadvantage. In the past, incoming governors have not always had input into the document prepared by his predecessor. As result, the new governor must react swiftly to a key document that may propose expenditures that he strongly disagrees with-and that he will have to live with for two years unless he can convince the General Assembly to make changes. We can only hope that Virginia’s next governor will have some input into his predecessor’s proposal.

With a new team officially in place only upon legislative approval, he will have to begin almost immediately after his election reviewing current budget documents and the newly proposed budget. Perhaps we need to change the process.