As I suggested in an earlier column, the new Governor and the General Assembly will face some of the most difficult decisions of my years in the General Assembly.
With Federal “stimulus” funds phasing out during the next two years unless Congress acts to expand it, all state legislatures with be facing enormous deficits in all program areas. Public education, higher education, transportation, human services and public safety will face large cuts.
I do not envy the job Governor-elect McDonnell and his cabinet will have. It is gratifying, however, to learn that the Governor-elect has assembled several bi-partisan teams of legislators, business leaders, financial and programmatic experts to advise him on how to deal with revenue deficits in all main programs areas. He has reached out to Democrats and independents, as well as leaders in his own party to review issues growing out Governor Kaines second biennial budget submission which will be presented to House and Senate committee on Friday, Dec. 18 in Richmond.(Senate Finance handles both revenues and expenditures, but the functions are split in the House.) Delegates Brink, Ebbin, Englin, Hugo,Watts, Sickles, Plum and I have been asked to participate in the bi-partisan panels advising on various subject areas.
Like his predecessors, Governor Kaine will present a balanced budget on Friday to the three committees. Governor McDonnell will therefore have to react quickly to a budget he has not prepared and, as in past transitions, he will have to decide what changes he wishes to propose.
On January 13, the House and Senate will begin the biennial 60-day session filled with very difficult budget and revenue decisions. Since Public and Higher Education, Medicaid and Public Safety account for more than 70% of the state expenditures, very few program areas, if any, will escape without program reductions.
Pubic hearings will be held throughout the Commonwealth beginning in early January. In Northern Virginia the hearing will be held on January 8 at the Ernst Center at the Northern Virginia Community College, Annandale Campus.
In addition. House and Senate members will have hearings and town meetings in their districts, along with the hearing at the Fairfax County Government Center beginning at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 9. Most of the Senators and Delegates are likely to attend the Jan. 9 event.
In addition, I will participate in two local town meetings, both on January 23, the Saturday after the inaugural ceremony. One hearing will be held in Fairfax County at Longfellow Middle School on Westmoreland St. in McLean, from 10 a.m. to noon, and one will be held at the Falls Church Community Center beginning at 12:30 p.m.
Delegate Scott represents the 53rd District in the Virginia House of Delegates. He may be emailed at [email protected]