General Assembly Adjourns After One Extra Day
The 2010 General Assembly Session has now come to a close having stretched into one day of overtime.
After missing their scheduled adjournment Saturday afternoon, House and Senate budget conferees continued to work toward a compromise late into Saturday night and early Sunday morning, finally reaching an agreement by one a.m.
The Senior House Republican conferee, Delegate Kirk Cox of Colonial Heights, said setting aside reserve money had been a sticking point between the House and Senate.
Cox: We would have like to have had a bigger reserve. We had a 165 million dollar reserve in. A lot of people don’t realize we’re going to have a rainy day payment in ’13, so we were basically banking it for that. We ended up getting in 50 million dollars. I would have liked to have had more, but certainly much better than the Senate’s ten million dollars. We certainly would have desired to have no fees. That was our goal. You don’t always get what you want. They had 323 million we went into conference with a goal to stay under 100. We got rid of two or three particularly problematic ones. Property and casualty insurance, E9111, we fought both of those. Property and casualty insurance we thought had no nexus whatsoever for what they were trying to accomplish. The series of fees that we did approve whether they be water pollution fees, or mines and mineral resources, or coal-mining fees, basically for inspections and those types of things, you do have a tight nexus, you can argue that the service isn’t totally paid for and so I’m not thrilled about that but to get a budget done, that’s what had to happen.
Cox said that while many agencies have sustained cuts, some good was done for one area that has been underserviced in the past.
Cox: The House has had a big priority for the last four years for what we call I.D. waivers or M.R. waivers for the intellectually disabled. We just really feel like that there are a lot of wasteful programs in government; there are also some things the government should be doing. And making sure that we are providing those waiver slots which are really services for those folks. We were able to get 250 new waiver slots in. That’s something that will get no press. But we thought that was very important.
Under the two-year budget, public education will sustain 250 million dollars in cuts, Health and Human resources will enact 360 million dollars in reductions, and 850 million dollars in cuts to payments into the Virginia Retirement System, primarily for new hires. All of the proposed furloughs for state workers were eliminated, something the House members believed was too much to ask of employees who haven’t received a pay raise in three years. The 47 million dollars in cuts made to public safety when Governor Kaine introduced the budget in December were completely restored.
Also included in the budget was a 15 percent reduction to funding for PBS. Delegate Cox explains.
Cox: I don’t think it’s necessarily an indictment on PBS. I think for us, when you’re really struggling with M.R. waivers and core programs, there’s a lot of stations out there today, I think the feeling was that, as far as PBS funding goes, we cut the non-educational basically, at a much higher level, obviously. We just felt like that with this very tough budget that was an appropriate cut.
Governor McDonnell applauded the legislature’s hard work in an especially trying session.
McDonnell: Far and away I think this is the most difficult period of time in modern Virginia history, with the budget crisis that we face this year. No legislature has ever had to deal with a 4 billion dollar deficit. No Governor has ever sent down 2.3 billion dollars in amendments. So it was an exceptional fiscal challenge that faced the legislature this year but it’s reflective of what Virginians are going through themselves with their businesses and their personal lives and as they’ve had to make very, very difficult decisions about what their priorities are with their own resources. They expect Government to do the same.
The House passed the budget on a 73-23 vote and the Senate passed it on a vote of 34-6. After over ten billion dollars in cuts over the last two and a-half years, the state’s operating budget is now just under seventy billion dollars. The legislature will reconvene in six weeks to consider any amendments that the Governor may have to any of the bills passed this session. It’s also the designated time for the General Assembly to consider the override of any potential vetoes from the Governor.
Craig Carper, WCVE News Capitol Square.