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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Virginia Gov Pushes Deep Budget Cuts (Privately)

From the Washington Post:

In private, Virginia governor pushes deep budget cuts

By Anita Kumar

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

RICHMOND -- Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) has privately recommended cutting $730 million from K-12 education and $300 million from health programs, as well as changing the state retirement system and requiring 10 days of furloughs for state employees, all to help offset a $2.2 billion budget shortfall over two years, according to sources familiar with the plan.

The K-12 reductions would loosen the state's basic educational standards while reducing funds for support staff, supplemental salaries for coaches and teachers who serve as club sponsors, and health insurance for teachers.

The health cuts would reduce mental-health treatment beds by 232, take 5 percent in funds from community service boards that offer substance abuse and mental health treatment programs, and freeze enrollment for a program that provides insurance to low-income children.

The governor is also recommending millions of dollars in trims to public libraries, shuttering some state parks and phasing out all public broadcasting support over four years.

McDonnell has refused for weeks to release his proposals publicly, despite repeated requests from lawmakers and advocates. Instead, he and his staff members have been sharing recommendations with small groups of legislators for weeks behind closed doors -- a departure from the way governors have conveyed their budget priorities in Virginia for decades. The governor has scheduled a news conference on the budget for Wednesday, but it's not clear what he will announce.
A number of lawmakers and legislative staffers briefed on the proposals provided information about them to The Washington Post. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because McDonnell has not released the specifics publicly. McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin declined to comment Tuesday.

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