Local Commentary

Delegate Scott’s Richmond Report

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Education programs are on the chopping block.

On December 19, the McDonnell Administration presented its full two-year budget for the Commonwealth. The Governor and his Secretary of Finance agreed with Global Insight, a frequently used consulting firm, and The Joint Advisory Board of Economists, that the immediate future for the Commonwealth was a “weak growth outlook” that assumed the 2% payroll tax cut and the emergency unemployment insurance payments would be extended for 2012, but then phased out over several years.

Of course those assumptions are anything but certain as we have seen. The Congressional Supercommittee failed to produce the anticipated results. Instead the Governor seemed to assume that a package of spending cuts and tax increases may be postponed until January 2014. In addition the Governor seems to be assuming that the Bush cut tax will be continued, with the resulting reductions in revenues.

What does the Governor do with the additional revenues that he has found by cutting elsewhere in the Budget-rather than raising additional revenues? He finances significant additional revenues into the Virginia Retirement Systems (VRS). Most will agree that VRS needs significant new revenues, but not by reducing important education programs and services.
In short the Virginia Economic Outlook for FY 12-14 was projected to be weaker than the last forecast approximately one year ago. Nevertheless, the Governor felt that the revenue forecast could be increased, partially because non-withholding revenue is expected to grow 12.6 percent, in contrast to the earlier official forecast of 3.4%. Total general fund revenues are now expected to be $83.3 million above the forecast for FY 2012.

The estimates also reflect proposed policy changes, including diverting $110.7 million from the General Fund into transportation.

In addition, almost $15 million will be reduced in the Commonwealth funding of teaching hospitals for care of the poor. Funding for charter schools will be increased by $11 million while the Virginia pre-school initiative will be reduced by in access of $41 million and cutting $32 million in personnel costs for support positions in high cost regions of the state.

 


Delegate Scott represents the 53rd District in the Virginia House of Delegates. He may be emailed at [email protected]