In his news release (see below), Del. David Englin (D-Alexandria/Arlington) is absolutely right, Bob McDonnell’s supposed “budget surplus” is certainly not how it’s defined in the dictionary. Also, and this can’t be repeated enough for the idiot media (e.g., WAMU) which can’t get this story straight (or even pronounce Gov. McDonnell’s name correctly), McDonnell’s phony “surplus” is, as David Englin says, “largely the result irresponsible choices and budget gimmickry.” I mean, if this is a real budget surplus, then I’m sure Bob McDonnell – good “conservative” that he is – will be proposing large tax cuts soon enough, since there’s all this money he doesn’t know what to do with. Right?
Governor McDonnell today repeated the claim that Virginia suddenly has a surplus, but that is simply false. Webster’s defines “surplus” as “the amount that remains when use or need is satisfied.” Given that the General Assembly just cut an additional $4 billion in state services, one could hardly call this year’s $404 million account balance “the amount that remains when use or need is satisfied.” If anything, it is an “unappropriated balance” waiting to satisfy unmet needs. The fact that Governor McDonnell (correctly, in my view) intends to spend this money on dire unmet budget needs is proof enough of that point.
Beyond that, it’s important to note that this unappropriated balance is largely the result irresponsible choices and budget gimmickry. The General Assembly effectively took a “payday loan” from the state pension trust fund by borrowing $600 million from the fund, despite the fact that the Pew Center for the States in February downgraded Virginia for underfunding our pension trust fund’s ability to meet known obligations. Additionally, Virginia required retailers — many of whom are struggling small businesses — to estimate their July sales tax receipts and pay them early, shifting that revenue from one fiscal year to another. The taxes these businesses were forced to pay early caused more than half of the current unappropriated balance and leaves a hole that same size in the next year’s revenue.
Instead of trying to score political points by claiming a surplus that isn’t, leaders of both parties ought to level with citizens who see for themselves the decline in services and quality of life. A balanced budget and responsible stewardship of taxpayer dollars requires money in to equal money out, without gimmicks that cook the books and risk our future finances.
P.S. Click here for Bob McDonnell’s remarks this morning to the General Assembly money committees.