McDonnell Budget Amendments Up Spending by $211M
Local officials don't agree with directing $48 million of general fund money to transportation projects.
Gov. Bob McDonnell announced Monday a series of amendments to the Virginia State Budget that would increase net spending by more than $200 million.
The amendments find $500 million in savings in the state’s two-year, $80 billion budget. But they propose an additional $736 million in new spending for teacher raises, funding to state colleges and increases in funding to local governments, along with transportation projects and teacher salary.
“The budget amendments that I am presenting today reflect … the realities of this economy and the looming uncertainty that budget gridlock in Washington and the fiscal cliff are having on our economy,” McDonnell said in a statement. “Yet they look forward to building upon our legacy of conservative and sound budget decisions to lay the groundwork for the future of our great Commonwealth.”
Transportation projects, a particularly hot topic in the months leading up to January’s legislative session, would get $48 million from the state’s general fund sales tax revenues.
But McDonnell’s amendments don’t provide any details on a massive transportation-funding package he announced earlier this month, one that would add $500 million a year for roads by 2018.
McDonnell could have an uphill battle in getting general fund money.
During a meeting of Fairfax County’s Virginia legislative delegation last week, Democrats agreed money in the state’s general fund was needed for other critical programs, such as education.
“We cannot afford to take any more money out of the general fund,” Sen. Dick Saslaw (D-35th) said.
Del. Bob Brink (D-48th) agreed with Saslaw.
“We simply don’t have the room to put transportation into competition [in the general fund] with what I regard as these core services,” he said.
Speaking with Patch on Tuesday, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova said she didn’t support dipping into general fund money usually designated for schools and other programs.
“I am unhappy when I see money coming out of the general fund … that should be used for education, for public safety, for human services,” she said. “I don’t think that’s a fair trade.”
Bulova was happy to see an amendment that would restore $45 million in aid to local governments. Fairfax County would see about $3.5 million, Bulova said.
“It’s not as much as we’ve been cut in the past, but it’s certainly a welcome addition to the budget,” she said.
But Bulova lamented a $12 million cut in a "cost of competing" salary assistance program that helps the county to attract and recruit teachers, a problem the county has had in past budget years.
“We’re disappointed that it’s there again,” she said.
On top of the $45 million for localities, McDonnell’s amendments would also provide an extra $50 million for the Commonwealth’s rainy day fund, $30 million for state universities and $14 million to build prisons and combat overcrowding.