Because Virginia’s Senate Democrats did not like being in the minority, budget negotiations got interesting, perhaps too interesting. So what is in that budget the General Assembly finally got around to passing?  Delegate Scott Lingamfelter provides an explanation.

Results, Results, Results

Dear Friends,

As I reported yesterday, the Virginia General Assembly passed the FY 2012-2014 biennial budget after one Senate Democrat, Senator Chuck Colgan (D-Prince William) rejected partisan criticism from liberal Democrats and decided to join the Republicans in supporting the very responsible and fiscally conservative budget bill for Virginia.

The Senate voted 21-19 in support of the budget following a bipartisan House vote of 77-19. This was one of the most important votes all year. Without this budget, we would have left our law enforcement officers and regional jails underfunded, compromised Virginia’s credit, shut down transportation projects, burdened retailers with accelerated sales tax payments, and delayed tax refunds for our citizens. The list goes on. I’m just glad we finally have a budget. It was the right thing to do, as opposed to holding it up for partisan politics.

As promised, I would like to report to you what is included in this budget. This budget is structurally sound, fiscally disciplined, focused like a laser on the key functions of government, and reflects the input of the entire General Assembly. Here are some details.

Public Education:

  • Senate Democrats would have killed a budget that put nearly a half a billion dollars of new funding into Virginia’s K-12 system
  • $110 million for a flexible block grant thatlocalities can use this to address teacher retirement, inflation, and prekindergarten programs cost
  • $40 million to restore a portion of the Cost of Competing Adjustment (COCA) supplement for support positions in Northern Virginia. COCA is part of the funding formula that the state uses to determine how much money each area of Virginia gets for education. The Governor’s original budget proposal cut NOVA localities by $65 million. Along with several other Northern Virginia legislators, I fought against this and got a fair share of the money restored.

Higher Education:

  • Over $200 million in new funding into our colleges and universities to make them more accessible and affordable for Virginia students. This also includes funding to grow in-state undergraduate seats and improve retention and graduation.

Health and Human Resources:

  • Over $44 million to restore the health care safety net.
  • Funding for 225 Intellectual Disability (ID) waivers and 80 Developmentally Disabled (DD) waiver slots.
  • Funding for the continued operation of 13 temporary beds at the Northern Virginia Mental Health Institute.

Virginia Retirement System:

  • We also made historic reforms to strengthen the Virginia retirement system; reforms that have just been ranked by Moody’s as “credit positive”.

The discussion around this budget was one of the most rigorous and frustrating I have ever been a part of primarily because Senate Democrats obstructed the process the moment the Session began in January. What made it even more difficult was they didn’t have a clear message on what they were looking for! It started off with their unhappiness over their committee assignments- putting politics over the people. So they killed the first budget and then refused to formally sit down at the table and negotiate.

Next, Senate Democrats said it was about healthcare and education. As the adults in the room, we sat down and discussed how to responsibly fund these priorities. But they never missed an opportunity to put politics above the people. Senate Democrats pushed away from the table and said that this wasn’t good enough.

Finally, Senate Democrats demanded a $300 million earmark-that used debt-for the Dulles Rail project. Their plan was to borrow funds by selling state bonds to hold down the costs of tolls that are financing the Dulles rail project. Never mind that if the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA)-that oversees the project-would simply restructure its own debt, they could actually reduce the tolls by 90 cents per trip with no borrowing as opposed to the 40 cent reduction that would come with the $300 million of borrowing.   Indeed, borrowing this money for toll reductions is like using your credit card to make your car payment loan. That’s just plain foolish.

So, we finally have a budget-over a month late, but we have one. However, what it took to get this budget was unacceptable, reckless, and unprecedented. Liberal Senate Democrats may admire the work that their DC counterparts do, but I don’t. I don’t want Richmond to become DC by failing to pass a budget, jeopardizing the welfare of our citizens, or by making rash and fiscally irresponsible decisions.

Finally, it’s been an honor to represent you in Richmond.   I take my job very seriously and I never forget that I am the servant and you are the sovereign, that the money we appropriate is your money, not the government’s, and that you expect your government to be efficient, focused on core functions, and accountable to you. So do I.

Sic Semper Tyrannis