Wednesday, May 09, 2012

McDonnell adds $44M in budget amendments

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has added nearly $44 million in amendments to the state budget, including funding for economic development and education initiatives.
McDonnell submitted the amendments before the Friday midnight deadline to make changes to the two-year, $85 billion budget passed by the General Assembly last month, his office said Saturday.
As part of the proposed chan-ges, McDonnell seeks to restore $19.5 million in economic development funding, including money to entice Hollywood to film movies in Virginia and a program designed to lure private capital to life-science research projects at several state-supported universities. Lawmakers had removed about $47 million in economic development funding from McDonnell's original spending plan.

"I believe strongly that Virginia must invest in attracting and retaining private-sector job creators and capital," McDonnell said in a statement.

"This strategic investment in attracting and supporting private-sector job creation is crucial to ensuring that the 250,000 Virginians who are still looking for good-paying jobs to feed their families secure employment in the years ahead."

McDonnell also preserved nearly $881 million in new funding for K-12 and higher education, and also proposed an additional $2.7 million in funding to recruit teachers in science, math and technology disciplines and to fully fund a third-grade reading program.

The Republican governor, at the request of several General Assembly leaders, also proposed an amendment that would treat state legislators and statewide office holders the same as state employees regarding pension plan contributions.

"Similar to requirements passed in 2011 for state employees, this amendment would require elected officials to contribute 5 percent of their income toward their Virginia Retirement System pensions, offset by a 5 percent increase in compensation when constitutionally permitted," McDonnell's office said in a news release.

McDonnell also wants to fund a 3 percent bonus for state employees in November 2012 relying on savings from state agencies by the end of the 2012 fiscal year, and a 2 percent raise for state employees in fiscal year 2014.

To pay for the amendments, the governor is has proposed transferring an unused portion of a previous debt allocation to new capital project, transferring certain year-end balances, and spending cuts.

The General Assembly will reconvene May 14 to take up the governor's amendments.

After voting against the $85 billion budget needed to fund Virginia government three times over the past two months, the state Senate abruptly took up and passed the spending plan last month after Sen. Charles Colgan, a senior Democratic lawmaker from Prince William County broke ranks.

The budget bill remained alive because the special session to act on it was recessed — not adjourned. As the political fallout settled in, the bill was called up for reconsideration in the Senate and, without debate, passed 10 1/2 weeks before the current budget expires June 30.

The spending blueprint for the 24 months beginning July 1 totals nearly $85 billion in combined appropriations, up from about $80.7 billion for the biennium that ends June 30.

By:  The Associated Press

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