Today in Richmond, the House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Finance Committee released their amendments to the state budget. This weekend session was a response to the highly anticipated budget recommendations released last week by the Governor. In a statement released Sunday evening Governor McDonnell said,”I commend the leadership and members of the House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Finance Committee for producing their budgets today.”
As expected the Republican controlled House aligned with the majority of the Governor’s proposals while the Democratically controlled Senate has focused on different areas. The Senate Finance Committee’s spending plan did utilize several revenue generating ideas from Governor’s plan, but it restores many of the controversial cuts he proposed. For example, where the Governor suggested cutting $730 million from public education, the Senate plan would cut only $133 million. The difference would be funded by limiting contributions into the state employee and teacher retirement fund.
Of particular interest to educators in Northern Virginia is the amendment to use the 2010-12 Composite Index of Local Ability-to-Pay for all school divisions to calculate the state’s share of Direct Aid to Public Education funding. This amendment would adopt the new Composite Index for 2011 rather than using the 2008-10 Composite Index for an additional year as proposed in the introduced budget.
There are still many differences, some of which are significant, over the specifics of the recommendations made by both Committees, and those put forward by the Administration. However, today’s swift action demonstrates a commitment to advance the process.
The Governor was optimistic saying,”In the weeks ahead, I look forward to continuing to work with the House and Senate budget conferees in every manner by which this Administration can be helpful. I have great confidence that in the midst of the most difficult budgetary period in modern Virginia history we will pass a balanced budget on time, as the citizens of Virginia sent us here to do.”