Wednesday, December 9, 2009

McDonnell Prepares to Gilmore the Budget

If you liked Jim Gilmore, you'll love Bob McDonnell.

A little over a month after cruising to victory against Sen. Creigh Deeds in the gubernatorial election, Governor-Elect McDonnell has announced how he plans to "balance" the budget: cut even more spending without raising a dime of additional revenue. From the Roanoke Times:

RICHMOND -- Governor-elect Bob McDonnell and a key legislative ally warned Tuesday that they will nix any efforts by outgoing Gov. Tim Kaine to increase taxes to balance Virginia's budget, and will rely on spending cuts to close a shortfall of as much as $3.5 billion.

"He [Kaine] and I have met and I've asked him, and I think others have as well, to balance the budget through a full range of spending cuts," McDonnell said during an appearance before state newspaper reporters and editors at the annual Associated Press Day at the Capitol.

I suppose Mr. McDonnell hasn't been reading the news over the past year or so. Otherwise he would realize that Governor Kaine has already cut billions from the budget--affecting pretty much every crucial state service, including education and law enforcement. Locally, both school systems have cut budgets and jobs, and the New College Institute and Virginia Museum of Natural History have taken big hits. I'm not exactly sure what else Bob thinks we can cut.

The most logical thing to do would be to find extra money somewhere. Maybe by re-instating parts of the car tax?

Kaine also is considering cutting the amount of money it sends to counties, cities and towns to provide car-tax relief, an idea that a senior Republican legislator dismissed Tuesday.

"I do not see it going anywhere, and that's why I think it's counterproductive to put it in the budget," said Del. Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, during a panel discussion on the budget.

Lawmakers voted in 2004 to cap spending for the program at $950 million annually. McDonnell said Tuesday that he would consider any move to reduce those payments to be a tax increase.

Well, there you have it. McDonnell and the Virginia GOP have now restored their golden calf--the car tax rebate is off-limits! I suppose restoring the estate tax is off the table too.

My biggest worry is how this will affect our public schools and universities. I think Martinsville's best hope for recovery and renewal is embodied in the New College Institute, which has the potential to become a four-year university in the heart of the city. There currently does not exist such a public university in this area of the state, and it would provide a dramatic boost to the local economy--not only by creating a huge new market and bringing in a younger demographic, but by generating a knowledge economy in the Southside. As I mentioned above, they've already had to take cuts. I worry about the effect of the Republicans' starve-the-beast mentality on our most-needed public services. I guess if you destroy the state, then the market takes over, ushering in a Libertarian utopia....or something.

I've said it before on this blog and it bears repeating now. I don't like taxes either. No one does. But somehow or other we have to pay our teachers, cops and road workers. Somehow we have to build roads and bridges, otherwise there will be no way for the economy to function. We all benefit from those public services, and it's only fair to expect everyone to pay based on their ability to do so. But I guess that's not how things are going to work for the next four years.

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