Virginia Agencies Offer Millions in Contingency Cuts

Virginia state government agencies have sent Gov. Bob McDonnell suggestions for cutting their spending by more than $132 million over the next 18 months should spending reductions be needed to balance the state budget.

Shortly after the Nov. 6 election, McDonnell cited the potential of deep federal spending cuts barring a congressional debt-reduction deal in ordering department heads to prepare contingencies for cuts of 4 percent.

The governor could implement all the cuts, some of them, or change any of the recommendations. Or, if revenues remain on track or ahead of appropriations as they were through October, McDonnell could impose none of the cuts.

Thanks largely to a 15.7-percent spike in tax collections in October, general state revenues that had lagged well below official forecasts through the first quarter of the fiscal year increased to 4.8 percent revenue growth after four months.

Spokesman J. Tucker Martin said the proposed spending cuts, released to reporters late Friday, are only advisory, submitted for the governor's information, and that McDonnell has requested similar spending reduction contingency plans in each of his three years in office.

The largest share of the recommended cuts -- 40 percent -- totals almost $53 million from public safety agencies. More than half of that amount, about $30 million, would come from the Department of Corrections.

Health and Human Services agencies would lose $34 million, representing one-fourth of the total cuts. The deepest cuts would come from the Comprehensive Services for At-Risk Youth ($10 million) and grants to localities ($8.8 million).

The 21-page spreadsheet, with its tiny 5-point type, is rich with proposals that state agencies proffered that would reduce or eliminate aid to local governments, a popular budgetary expedient in recent years as legislative budget writers coped with the worse economic downturn since the Great Depression.

Almost $9.8 million would be cut in appropriations for offices such as sheriff, commonwealth's attorney and circuit court clerk. Another proposal would eliminate the state reimbursement for any of the employers' share of retirement contributions and group-life insurance premiums for constitutional officers.

Other proposed savings that would affect localities, for example, include nearly $350,000 in funding cuts for drinking water and sewer system development programs in southwestern Virginia, and $324,000 to the State Board of Elections budget that is used to help local electoral boards compensate people who work the polls on Election Day.

Education programs would lose up to $4.4 million, with $1 million of it coming from the Library of Virginia, cuts that could force six layoffs if they occur. Central office operations would be trimmed by about $900,000.

Recommended cuts to transportation, by contrast, totaled only $1,210, the least of any executive branch secretariat.

Other suggested cuts:

  • $704,000 from the Eastern Virginia Medical School for undergraduate medical education, likely forcing the school to boost tuition;
  • $590,000 in aid to local libraries;
  • $34,298 to help school districts with the costs of testing applicants for general equivalency diplomas;
  • $125,000 saved from eliminating a nursing scholarship and loan repayment program.
Copyright AP - Associated Press
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