Next Thursday, the Virginia General Assembly is scheduled to begin a much-anticipated special session to discuss Medicaid expansion. As the Washington Post reported in June, the session supposedly was "intended to show that Republicans are willing to discuss expanding Medicaid as long as the matter is divorced from the state budget." Except for one problem: as Del. Scott Surovell explained earlier this week, in reality this is just a Republican charade, a "dog-and-pony show for the press," not to mention a waste of "tens of thousands of dollars on a special session that is just 'for show.'"
Now, I'm hearing from informed sources that Surovell was absolutely correct. If anything, it's even worse than we thought, as Republicans apparently are planning to turn this special session into a discussion about the budget and judges, while avoiding discussion of Medicaid expansion.
All that would, of course, be dishonest on their part, but it would also be par for the course for those guys, given how they've behaved up to this point. That includes doing anything and everything in their power to make sure that a) hundreds of thousands of Virginians do NOT get access to affordable, quality health care; b) Virginia hospitals suffer financially; and c) billions of our tax dollars - money we've already paid! - does not come back to Virginia, but goes to other states instead. Brilliant, huh?
Another strange aspect of this charade is that two House of Delegates Republicans, Dave Albo and Tom Rust, both have some sort of health care proposals they've introduced (Note: neither of these bills have come through the committee process and are a long way from making it through to a floor vote. My understanding is that Del. Rust cant find any GOP support for his bill and they will likely kill it. Not sure about Del. Albo's bill, but I would assume it's the same story.. Yet if Republicans have no real intent of discussing Medicaid expansion in next week's special session, then what's the point? And, as Del. Surovell noted, is it worth the taxpayer expenditure to bring all these fine folks to Richmond to discuss the fact that Republicans neither have a plan to expand Medicaid nor will allow a real discussion on said topic?
By the way, it will be interesting to see if Virginia Republicans try to avoid a 45% hike in Virginia's gasoline tax, which is slated to take place due to a) the Virginia transportation bill passed overwhelmingly in 2013 and signed into law by Gov. Bob McDonnell; and b) the GOP-controlled U.S. House of Representatives' failure (and Bob Goodlatte's failure specifically) to pass the Marketplace Fairness Act, which was assumed in the transportation bill as a major source of revenues to fund roads, rail, etc. in Virginia. Of course, if Republicans move to ditch that component of the transportation law's revenue, it will seriously harm a law that "both sides" have touted as a great accomplishment. So keep an eye on that one for various shenanigans by Bill "ALEC" Howell, Tommy Norment et al. Should be fun...or not.
So, let's get this straight. According to conservative Republican Virginia House Speaker Bill Howell, Virginia's fiscal problems are the result of repeated tax cuts. Seriously, check out his Facebook post below, which claims that Virginia's $2.4 billion revenue shortfall is the result of: a) "Obama's tax policies" (e.g., extending most of the Bush tax cuts, repeatedly CUTTING taxes for the overwhelming majority of Americans (even right-leaning PolitiFact says that Obama has "pursued broad-based tax cuts for the middle class and small businesses"); and b) "declining federal spending" (which is party overwhelmingly supports).
Meanwhile, Howell refuses to take around $3.5-$4.5 million a DAY in federal funding that comes with expanding Medicaid in Virginia. He also supported cutting Virginia's estate tax, which has cost us around $140 million a year for the past 8 years or so, for a loss to the budget (in order to benefit a few hundred super-rich families) of around $1 billion (and counting).
Instead, you know what Howell means by his Orwellian Newspeak garbage about "setting priorities and making tough decisions": slashing funding for those who need it most, for education, for transportation, for environmental protection, you name it, all while continuing to coddle wealthy and powerful Virginia individuals and (of course) the corporations that have bought and paid for Howell et al's loyal service.
Message to Gov. McAuliffe: GET YOUR VETO PEN READY! (actually, get a few dozen of them, because you are going to have to use them a lot in 2015, 2016 and 2017).
P.S. Of course, it always makes me smile to see a supposed conservative Republican repudiate his party's "supply side" (aka "voodoo economics") mantra that tax cuts don't lead to deficits (because they supposedly stimulate SO much economic activity that it more than makes up from the lost revenues due to lower rates). I wonder if Howell even realizes he just did that.
Taking a break from a long weekend of supervising the writing of vetoes in the Governor's office, Paul Reagan stopped by the quarterly Central Committee meeting this morning. He shared some thoughts, getting an enthusiastic standing ovation from the committee members.
We vetoed the MIRC becaise it is a sham. It is nothing but an obstacle to Medicaid expansion.
We vetoed the Stanley amendment because it purports to restrict an appropriation the doesn't exist.
We vetoed $18 million worth of judges because they said that the Governor could not make those appointments if they are not in session. We're for those judgships. We can get the money restored, but they are not going to restrict the Governor's power to appoint.
We don't have money for a lavish new General Assemebly building when we don't have money for homeless people.
That said, Reagan bade farewell to a cheering audience of Democrats proud of a Governor who can deal with bush league Republicans. They may have just met the man we elected and they grossly underestimated.
"I think what we saw yesterday was a continuation of what the Governor has done from the very first moment that he got into office. And that is do exactly what he said he would do in his campaign; which was to restore integrity to government, fight for health care, and bring trust back into the state government."
I can't embed the feed for whatever reason, so just click on the following image to watch Gov. McAuliffe's press conference on Virginia's budget at 11:30 am. I'll blog the highlights as well. Based on multiple sources, I'm expecting good news, but we'll see soon enough. :)
UPDATE 12:24 pm: Rep. Jim Moran tweets, "@TerryMcAuliffe took a stand for all Virginians, not just the ideological few, and stood up for the healthcare security of 400k Virginians."
UPDATE 12:19 pm: The Republicans start to weigh in with the expected bitching, whining, etc. Here's Bob Goodlatte on Twitter: "I am extremely disappointed in @GovernorVA's decision to circumvent the General Assembly and move to unilaterally enact Medicaid expansion." Waaaaaaaaa!!! Oh, and one of the nuttiest of the right wingnuts in the Virginia General Assembly, Greg Habeeb, tweets this cri de coeur (spelling "emperor" wrong and of course engaging in wild hyperbole, as is his wont): "@GovernorVA has made it clear he believes he was elected Emporer and is unchecked by the Rule of Law. You can't overstate what he's done."
UPDATE 11:57 am: Del. Alfonso Lopez writes, "BRAVO - Proud of Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe today!!...He is sick of the 'demagoguery, lies, fear, and cowardice...'" Also, see Del. Scott Surovell's analysis, "Vetoes Drop and Virginia Moves Forward". Del. Surovell writes: "In summary, he has vetoed legal prohibitions to expanding Medicaid and he is moving forward on Medicaid expansion due to political obstruction."
UPDATE 11:53 am: DPVA tweets, "Thank you @GovernorVA for standing up for 400k uninsured Virginians!" Ben Tribbett tweets, "This is a bold move bc it means Gen Assembly is unlikely to approve much @GovernorVA does in next 3 years. TMac is making this his stand." I agree, and would just add that the GA wouldn't have approved much anyway, and this is the morally, economically, etc. stand to take! Ryan Nobles tweets, "Among many other things.. this is @GovernorVA challenging where the power lies in Richmond." Good! I also hear that the Virginia State Senate will sustain Gov. McAuliffe's vetoes. :) Now, can't wait to hear the Republicans' wail, whine, moan, scream, etc.
UPDATE 11:51 am: Bottom line, according to Gov. McAuliffe, is that "we are moving forward," while the House of Delegates has turned their back "time and time again." Our health care is in horrible shape, we have the right to help people and do the right thing. "I go to bed every night with a pit in my stomach" because of sick Virginians he's met who are counting on us to do the right thing and get this done.
UPDATE 11:45 am: Del. Mark Keam tweets, "@GovernorVA announced he will use power of line item veto to strike MIRC in budget to seek Medicaid expansion! Thank you Gov. McAuliffe!" Del. Marcus Simon tweets, "Virginia Politics has been making a lot of us sick lately. Today Virginia just got a lot healthier. I applaud.." Gov. McAuliffe says public-private partnerships are an option among several other options, but we WILL provide care for our citizens. Gov. McAuliffe thanks Attorney General's office, says he's working closely with AG's office on this. The bottom line is that 27 states have expanded Medicaid expansion, time for Virginia to do that too. DPVA Comms Director Ashley Bauman tweets, "So proud to work for @TerryMcAuliffe, a fierce advocate for ALL Virginians." Progress Virginia tweets, "Thank you @GovernorVA for standing up for health care for Virginia families!" Former McAuliffe campaign comms director Brennan Bilberry tweets, "Gov. McAuliffe's decision on Medicaid morally right, supported by majority of Virginians. Tea Party minority wrong on politics, policy" So true! Jeff Schapiro tweets, "If legislative R's don't think @GovernorVA McAuliffe is ticked about health care, he's also blocking construction of their new office bldg."
UPDATE 11:38 am: This is the context which Gov. McAuliffe had to evaluate this overdue budget which contained larger-than-necessary budget cuts thanks to Republican refusal to take Medicaid funds. Tempting to veto the entire budget, but no confidence in General Assembly to get a budget. Will sign legislation, but will make line-item vetoes: 1) MIRC (Medicaid Innovation Review Commission) in its entirety, as it's "merely a sham to pretend that the legislature is actually doing something," which it isn't -- not wasting any more time on this sham, not going to attend or assist the MERC in any future activities; 2) the Stanley floor amendment, since it restricts something that doesn't exist. With respect to healthcare, let me be clear, "I am moving forward." Sec. Hazel will have a plan on my desk no later than 9/1 of this year to put in place a Medicaid-financed health care fix. :)
UPDATE 11:32 am: Gov. McAuliffe starting the press conference now. Says it's "unconscionable" that we're not expanding Medicaid for hundreds of thousands of Virginians. Yet, "every single time" Republicans have "said no." He ran and won on the platform of expanding Medicaid. Republicans not only wouldn't compromise, they wouldn't even sit down and talk about the issue. Marketplace Virginia wasn't perfect, but was the best chance to get something through the House of Delegates. The GOP leadership in the House "rejected compromise." Gov. McAuliffe then offered yet ANOTHER compromise, yet once again Republican House leadership "said no...chose instead to subject our citizens to a protracted budget stalemate." Then, last week, the House Republicans again said now, refused "any and all compromise," turned its back on Virginians who need health care coverage. They've also elected to forfeit more than $5 million per day -- $852 million to date!
A diverse group of 21 health care advocates including doctors, faith leaders, health care providers, mental health advocates, consumer advocates, and localities issued the following statement today in a press call, urging Governor McAuliffe to veto the budget.
"Governor McAuliffe should veto the budget sent to him by the General Assembly. Our organizations have tirelessly advocated for years to provide quality, affordable health care for all Virginians, and we are outraged that the General Assembly has failed to close the coverage gap.
"Closing the gap would bring billions of dollars into the state, create jobs, and save lives. We urge Governor McAuliffe to take a stand against a budget full of such misplaced priorities, and refuse to sign a budget that does not close the coverage gap."
The statement was signed by the following organizations:
AARP Virginia Mental Health America of Virginia Mental Health America of Central Virginia Mental Health America of New River Valley Mental Health Association of Fauquier County National Association of Social Workers - Virginia Chapter National Physicians Alliance - Virginia Our Lady Queen of Peace Church, Arlington Progress VA Education Fund Social Action Linking Together (SALT) The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis Virginia AFL-CIO Virginia Chapter of Doctors for America Virginia Chapter, National Organization for Women Virginia Consumer Voices for Healthcare Virginia First Cities Virginia Hemophilia Foundation Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy Virginia New Majority Virginia Poverty Law Center Virginia Rural Health Association
Dr. Chris Lillis, primary care provider in Fredericksburg and Virginia State Director, Doctors for America: “Expanding Medicaid will allow for coordinated, primary care for hard working Virginians who have this historic opportunity to gain access to health insurance. Primary care, especially the coordinated care of chronic disease, leads to healthier lives and less cost for our health system as a whole. Closing the Coverage Gap is the right thing to do for Virginia. It is a decision that puts patients ahead of politics.”
Michael Cassidy, President & CEO, The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis: “Lawmakers passed a deeply flawed spending plan that denies 400,000 hardworking Virginians quality, affordable health care. But they also have passed up another $250 million in lost state budget savings as well as tax revenues that would be generated by the creation of some 20,000 health care jobs. These misplaced priorities have led to even deeper cuts to K-12 education, health care, public safety, and other key public investments. Taken together these misguided decisions undermine the state’s long-term economic strength.”
Marco Grimaldo, CEO & President, Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy: “The Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy has consistently called for a moral budget that lifts up all Virginians and offers a helping hand to low-income people in the Commonwealth. Insomuch as this budget does not expand access to health care through Medicaid, we call on Gov. McAulliffe to veto the bill and ask the General Assembly to approve a budget with Medicaid.”
It isn't just Medicaid expansion that has been obstructed by "conservatives." As Staunton School Board member Joel Grogan points out, the new state budget sets funding for schools at pre-2009 levels. The economic impact of this epic legislative failure washes over the future of Virginia. This is McDonnell's leadership legacy.
Whether GOP legislators want to believe it or not, Virginia education is already in crisis. Grogan discussed the departure of Waynesboro High School Teacher of the Year Josh Waldron. After six years of teaching, this accomplished young man is taking home only $100 a month more than when he started.
"The job, though, is about much more. And I have very real concerns about the sustainability of public education in Waynesboro (and as a whole)." - Josh Waldron in his personal blog
Grogan wishes that the organization that represents school board issues hadn't shied away from the Medicaid expansion issue. He was told that they had to stay away from it because the organization is nonpartisan. But this, he says, is not a political issue; it's a moral issue and an economic issue. He argues it is a myth that this is a political issue, pointing out that there are about a dozen states with Republican Governors and legislatures that have either found a way to expand Medicaid or are on the way to it. Even in Virginia, a traditionally conservative organization, the State Chamber of Commerce, favors expansion, proving it isn't a left and right issue. This expansion will create 33,000 jobs.
At least Staunton's Republican state Senator, Emmett Hanger, has broken ranks to plow a path toward a special session that can consider expansion. That means that the battle is not over. Grogan calls for remaining positive and holding our delegates' feet to the fire on this issue.
The time has come for our Delegates in Richmond to come together and close our Commonwealth's current health care coverage gap for the 400,000 low-income Virginians who need Medicaid expansion to pass in Virginia!
Last night, health care advocates, Delegate Marcus Simon (D-53), Virginians who fall into the coverage gap and a coalition of health care and human service providers came together at the Lorton Community Action Center. From the facility's food pantry they called upon all Virginia representatives to work together on a budget compromise that expands badly needed health care to hundreds of thousands of working Virginians and their families who need it now.
Speakers included Virginians who fall into the coverage gap, Delegate Marcus Simon (D-Fairfax County), Don Owens, Chair of the Dulles Regional Chamber of Commerce, and Martha Wooten, Executive Director, and Dr. Basim Kahn, Medical Director, of Neighborhood Health, a community health center that serves Fairfax County and Alexandria. Please find all their amazing stories and calls to action after the jump.
Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 217,000 in May, and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 6.3 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Employment increased in professional and business services, health care and social assistance, food services and drinking places, and transportation and warehousing.
Household Survey Data
The unemployment rate held at 6.3 percent in May, following a decline of 0.4 percentage point in April. The number of unemployed persons was unchanged in May at 9.8 million. Over the year, the unemployment rate and the number of unemployed persons declined by 1.2 percentage points and 1.9 million, respectively. (See table A-1.)
Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult men (5.9 percent), adult women (5.7 percent), teenagers (19.2 percent), whites (5.4 percent), blacks (11.5 percent), and Hispanics (7.7 percent) showed little or no change in May. The jobless rate for Asians was 5.3 percent (not seasonally adjusted), little changed
from a year earlier. (See tables A-1, A-2, and A-3.)
Among the unemployed, the number of job losers and persons who completed temporary jobs declined by 218,000 in May. The number of unemployed reentrants increased by 237,000 over the month, partially offsetting a large decrease in April. (Reentrants are persons who previously worked but were not in the labor force prior to beginning
their current job search.) (See table A-11.)
The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was essentially unchanged at 3.4 million in May. These individuals accounted for 34.6 percent of the unemployed. Over the past 12 months, the number of long-term unemployed has declined by 979,000. (See table A-12.)
The civilian labor force participation rate was unchanged in May, at 62.8 percent. The participation rate has shown no clear trend since this past October but is down by 0.6 percentage point over the year. The employment-population ratio, at 58.9 percent, was also unchanged in May and has changed little over the year. (See table A-1.)
The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers), at 7.3 million, changed little in May. These individuals were working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job. (See table A-8.)
In May, 2.1 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force, essentially unchanged from a year earlier. (The data are not seasonally adjusted.) These individuals were not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because they
had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey. (See table A-16.)
Among the marginally attached, there were 697,000 discouraged workers in May, little different from a year earlier. (The data are not seasonally adjusted.) Discouraged workers are persons not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them. The remaining 1.4 million persons marginally attached to the labor
force in May had not searched for work for reasons such as school attendance or family responsibilities. (See table A-16.)
Establishment Survey Data
Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 217,000 in May, with gains in professional and business services, health care and social assistance, food services and drinking places, and transportation and warehousing. Over the prior 12 months, nonfarm payroll employment growth had averaged 197,000 per month. (See table B-1.)
Professional and business services added 55,000 jobs in May, the same as its average monthly job gain over the prior 12 months. In May, the industry added 7,000 jobs each in computer systems design and related services and in management and technical consulting. Employment in temporary help services continued to trend up (+14,000) and has grown by 224,000 over the past year.
In May, health care and social assistance added 55,000 jobs. The health care industry added 34,000 jobs over the month, twice its average monthly gain for the prior 12 months. Within health care, employment rose in May by 23,000 in ambulatory health care services (which includes offices of physicians, outpatient care centers, and home health care services) and by 7,000 in hospitals. Employment rose by 21,000 in social assistance,
compared with an average gain of 7,000 per month over the prior 12 months.
Within leisure and hospitality, employment in food services and drinking places continued to grow, increasing by 32,000 in May and by 311,000 over the past year.
Transportation and warehousing employment rose by 16,000 in May. Over the prior 12 months, the industry had added an average of 9,000 jobs per month. In May, employment growth occurred in support activities for transportation (+6,000) and couriers and messengers (+4,000).
Manufacturing employment changed little over the month but has added 105,000 jobs over the past year. Within the industry, durable goods added 17,000 jobs in May and has accounted for the net job gain in manufacturing over the past 12 months.
Employment in other major industries, including mining and logging, construction, wholesale trade, retail trade, information, financial activities, and government, showed little change over the month.
The average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls was unchanged at 34.5 hours in May. The manufacturing workweek increased by 0.2 hour in May to 41.1 hours, and factory overtime was unchanged at 3.5 hours. The average workweek for production and nonsupervisory employees on private nonfarm payrolls was unchanged at 33.7 hours. (See tables B-2 and B-7.)
In May, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 5 cents to $24.38. Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have risen by 2.1 percent. In May, average hourly earnings of private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees increased by 3 cents to $20.54. (See tables B-3 and B-8.)
After revision, the change in total nonfarm employment for March remained +203,000, and the
change for April was revised from +288,000 to 282,000. With these revisions, employment gains in March and April were 6,000 lower than previously reported.
Just a couple of weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal provided pessimistic reports regarding state and local government projected revenues from personal income taxes. This was followed by a column by Richard Ravitch that outlined an indictment of fiscal malfeasance across the country. Almost every example he provided should send a chill down our spines. It was as though he was focused on the McDonnell years in our state but there are cases in our local jurisdictions where you find the trail toward insolvency too. Unfortunately, Democrats are not squeaky clean.
Sounding the alarm, Ravitch asks aloud whether the current woes are cyclical or structural. Are they tied to the financial collapse of 2008 or are they the result of legislation that fails to safeguard sound fiscal practice?
Ravitch outlines the common practice of making contributions to employee pension funds that are insufficient to meet contractual and/or constitutional guarantees..."sometimes contributions are not made at all for years at a time." Everyone involved has an incentive to keep contributions low because the alternative is risk underfunding or face layoffs and/or benefit reductions.
The first and most apparent manifestation of trouble in Virginia is in the Virginia Retirement System. McDonnell and his comrades crafted a complicated fraud on Virginians and our employees. He even claimed that he had resolved the issue of unfunded obligations. That is a lie that will return to haunt.
"Some payments to pension funds are made with promissory notes rather than cash...borrowing to cover operating deficits." - Ravitch
If state employees had adequate representation, by that meaning a union, the issue might had been adequately addressed. Instead, McDonnell was able to write a ten year mortgage that will never be adequately repaid while continuing to pile up unfunded obligations for the system. Yes, eventually there was another lie perpetrated concerning employee contributions that established a basis for claiming resolution; this single malfeasance may be enough to eventually bankrupt the state, but it pales in comparison with inadequately funding Medicaid which is the largest obligation in almost every state.
Ten days ago in a small room off the House floor, I met with Public Safety Appropriations Chairman Scott Lingamfelter to hammer out a deal on Alicia's Law. He said " you made your case. I'm going to get the ICAC's more funding. You have my word as a VMI man." This week I know those words are hollow.
Alicia's Law has always had broad bi-partisan support. Leaders like Delegate Dave Albo, Senator Creigh Deeds, Delegate Mark Sickles, Delegate Todd Gilbert, Senator Janet Howell, Delegate Ben Cline and Delegate Rob Bell are just a few of the members that have led the charge to fight for more resources to rescue children.
Lingamfelter, who hung on to his seat in the last general election by a few hundred votes, is joined in opposition to Alicia's Law now by his appropriations chairman Delegate Chris Jones (R-Suffolk), who has a likely opponent in his next primary. They have both made it clear: there will be no vote on increased funding for Alicia's Law (not a dime of which is taxpayer money) and there will be no rescue for the thousands of raped children who languish at the hands of their abusers in Virginia.
I am Director of Legislative Affairs for PROTECT, a lobby devoted to the protection of children from harm. We don't take a dime of government money and only advocate for laws that effectively interdict the most heinous offenders in Virginia: the ones that rape children. You'd think our job down in Richmond would be easy right? Who in their right mind would ever be opposed to rescuing children from the people who rape them?
RICHMOND- Governor Bob McDonnell unveiled the Commonwealth’s budget for the next two fiscal years in a morning address to the Joint Money Committees of the General Assembly. The budget, totaling approximately $95.9 billion for the biennium (General Fund: $37.7 billion; Non-General Fund: $58.2 billion), continues the governor’s focus on promoting private-sector job creation and growing the Commonwealth’s economy in spite of ongoing fiscal uncertainty at the federal level.
In addressing the Joint Money Committees, the governor remarked, “We have talked many times about the “Virginia Way” by which we govern. We analyze and debate budget and policy issues passionately but civilly. Then we find common ground and solve problems. The Virginia Way is one of sharing credit for getting positive results for the good of our people. Eight million people are counting on the Virginia Way continuing!
“This approach is especially important today when my introduced budget is handed off to a governor-elect of a different party. Accomplishments and progress require statesmanship in both branches of government. I hope you will find the Virginia Way at work in these budget recommendations. The major spending recommendations focus on the core public services which lead to prosperity. They also decrease our reliance on budgetary gimmicks that helped in the past but run counter to structural balance and sound financial judgment. You will also find a fair amount of embedded caution, given the global economic and national political uncertainty.”
The governor concluded his remarks noting, “Over the past four years we have worked together to put the “Virginia Way” to work in building a “Commonwealth of Opportunity” for all Virginians. With your cooperation, we have gotten very good results for our citizens. Unemployment has fallen from 7.4% to 5.6%. Over 172,000 net new jobs have been created, and we are the country’s most business friendly state! We passed the first long-term transportation funding plan in a generation. Our colleges and universities are more affordable and accessible, and on the way to issuing 100,000 new degrees for Virginia students. We reduced the future liability in our pension system by $9 billion. We’ve brought more innovation, accountability, and choice to our K-12 system and rewarded our excellent, hard-working teachers. We’ve cared for the prisoners, the orphans, the hungry, the mentally ill, and the homeless, as the Scriptures say we must. Today, as I enter my last weeks as governor, I sincerely thank you for your strong partnership, your warm friendship, and your can-do, results-oriented leadership. By any metric, Virginia is stronger today, and we left the campground better than we found it. Our economy is growing. Our schools, roads, pensions, people, natural resources, and jobs are stronger. Now, as you consider this biennial budget, I ask that you keep this progress going and work with Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe and his team to accomplish even more in the years ahead.”
General Fund revenue growth of 4.2 percent is expected in fiscal year 2015, with growth of 3.9 percent anticipated in fiscal year 2016
Selected Highlights of the Governor's Biennial Budget:
·Triples the Rainy Day Fund from beginning of governor’s term; Fund will reach $1 billion by 2016
·Allocates $183.1 million in additional, new higher education funding; Brings new administration investment in Virginia’s colleges and universities to nearly $600 million
·Provides $38.3 million in new funding for mental health priorities
·Leaves unappropriated balance of $50.9 Million in general fund to provide for greater budget flexibility and latitude for General Assembly and incoming McAuliffe Administration; Largest unappropriated balance since 1991
·Identifies $261 million in targeted savings
·Provides for another performance bonus payment of up to 3% for state employees before Christmas 2014; Bonus contingent upon satisfactory employee performance and savings generated at end of current Fiscal Year equal to twice cost of bonus
·Includes $582.6 million in increased funding in biennium for K-12 and Pre-K
·Dedicates $16.2 million to cover biennial cost of providing foster care and adoption payments. Includes 3% increase in foster care payment rates; Beginning in FY 2016, provides funds to expand foster care and adoption subsidies to age 21 for the most vulnerable youth
·Makes available $6.5 million to address study requirements that must be met to allow additional dredging at Norfolk Harbor, as well as for the deepening of the Elizabeth River channel
·Supplies additional $1.5 Million for Port of Virginia Economic and Infrastructure Development Zone Grant Fund to encourage private-sector companies to locate along transportation corridors leading to Port
·Presents additional $196.7 million to fund debt service on all capital projects previously authorized by General Assembly, as well as debt service on select new projects
·Fully funds pension reform commitment of phasing-in increases to state and teacher retirement contributions to reduce future unfunded liabilities
·Provides additional $315.3 million for the general fund share of state and teacher pension benefits representing funding at 80 percent of the full pension contribution rates, as well as funding for the 10-year scheduled payback of deferred employee retirement contributions from fiscal years 2011 and 2012.
·Dedicates $55.3 million To Support Public Safety Efforts; Includes $22.2 million for Sheriffs, Commonwealth's Attorneys, and Circuit Court Clerk Deputies to fund new hires, reduce overcrowding in jails, fund long overdue pay increases, and support other critical operations; Also $21.3 million in additional funding to assist local law enforcement through the "599" program
·Directs $11 million to the City of Richmond for the development, creation, and enhancement of the Slavery and Freedom Heritage Site
·Continues governor’s commitment to improving Virginia’s prisoner re-entry process with $2.8 million in new funding to help prisoners successfully rejoin society; additionally appropriates nearly $450,000 for additional staffing to further streamline and expedite the state’s restoration of rights process
·Ensures $4 million for oyster restoration efforts; $2 million each year of the biennium. Virginia’s recent efforts to revitalize the state’s historic oyster industry have resulted in 2012 seeing the largest harvest in the Commonwealth since 1987; the oyster industry had an economic impact of $42.6 million last year
·Dedicates over $31 million from the FY2013 budget surplus to the Water Quality Improvement Fund
·Provides $7.2 million for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program to provide access to life-saving medications for the treatment of HIV and related illnesses for low-income clients
·Directs $8 million over the biennium to the Virginia Housing Trust Fund, and $500,000 in additional revenue each year to Virginia’s rapid re-housing program, all designed to continue the administration’s homelessness prevention and reduction efforts. Over the last four years, overall homelessness in Virginia has declined by 16%
Ed Kilgore of the Washington Monthly and Bryce Covert of ThinkProgress sum up the budget deal reached by Paul "Lyin'" Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray. In sum, it's not ALL bad, but there's a bunch of really bad stuff in it. Here are the parts I find particularly objectionable.
1. "Most importantly, the deal left out an extension of unemployment (UI) benefits for the million or so people who will run out of benefits-and out of luck-at year's end. Individual pain aside, that will greatly undermine if not completely cancel the stimulative effect of the deal. It will also represent something of an official surrender by the federal government on unemployment..." Horrible, unconscionable, heartless and stupid, all wrapped up into one - the prototypical Teapublican combination. Ugh.
2. "[T]he total of $85 billion in 'savings' in the deal comes mainly from significantly higher pension contributions by new federal employees and new fees on commercial air travel." In other words, make those evil bureaucrats (aka, dedicated civil servants) pay more yet again out of their pockets, while not, let's say, cutting corporate welfare for fossil fuel companies, or putting a cap on deductions for people making over $500k or whatever, etc. Over the past few years, it seems to me that federal employees have been repeatedly whacked, and for what purpose? In no way, shape, or form are federal salaries what's driving our deficits (that would be health care costs, for the most part). No, this is all about Republicans wanting to screw a bunch of people they dislike, for no good reason other than vitriol. Pathetic.
3. "[T]he deal doesn't appear to address the cuts that ravaged many programs this year." For instance: "Meals on Wheels, Section 8 housing voucher assistance, and homelessness assistance. Some schools had to close and some scientists had to halt their research projects or fire staff."
From Virginia Organizing. Note that Virginia's current minimum wage of $7.25/hour is just one fifth of of what a single adult with two children needs to earn to get by in our state. The living wage for a single adult is calculated at $18.59/hour. Clearly, we're not even close, even as we shell out huge tax breaks for corporations and wealthy individuals. There's simply no excuse for this.
Richmond, Va.—On Wednesday, December 4, Virginia Organizing released a report authored by the Alliance for a Just Society detailing the living wage “job gap” in Virginia. This is the 15th year the report has been produced.
In Virginia, there are approximately seven job seekers for every one job that pays a living wage in a single adult household. That number increases to 16 job seekers for every one living wage job available in a two-child, single parent household.
Speakers expressed concern that Virginia has not agreed to expand Medicaid and discussed the consequences of failing to expand for the 400,000 Virginians who would benefit, our communities, and our economy. Medicaid expansion would add well-paying jobs to the economy and reduce the cost of living for many low-income Virginians.
Eunice Haigler, a Virginia Organizing leader from Fredericksburg who is directly affected by Medicaid, understands the real consequences that lack of health care can have.
“In 2010, I was working, but I made too much to qualify for Medicaid and too little to purchase health insurance,” said Haigler. “I had to put food on the table for my family instead of getting health care I needed. As a result of not having Medicaid then, and not being able to get the medicine or treatment I needed for a tumor, I am partially blind today.”
“This report shows what Virginians already know—we need better wages and better social safety net programs in Virginia,” said Virginia Organizing Chairperson Sandra A. Cook. “Medicaid expansion and an increase in the minimum wage can clearly help those working low-wage jobs have more financial security and add more to the economy through being able to afford to spend money in local communities. These things are good for all of us.”
Virginia’s failure to expand Medicaid has already cost well-paying jobs in Pennington Gap, Virginia after the Lee Regional Medical Center closed.
“One of the casualties of the politicization of Medicaid expansion was a local hospital,” said Lee County resident and Virginia Organizing leader Jill Carson. “People lost their jobs and now community members have to travel farther for medical treatment. The travel costs add even more to health care costs that many low-income workers already cannot afford due to lack of a living wage.”
To access a recording of the tele-media conference, please call 712-432-1202 and use access code 529122#, reference number 1.
Repeatedly, we are told by both the TeaPublicans and the media that Democrats won't negotiate. But they do and have. Moreover, they have compromised far more than most people realize. When describing the hostage-taking TeaPublicans' behavior, we justifiably used words like extortion and blackmail, to describe what they and Boehner are doing. Yes, we should call them out for their treasonous economic terrorism. But we inadvertently failed to fully inform voters about the actual budget. We don't use those numbers to show what has really happened. It would be nice if reporters actually did their job. But they won't, so we must. We'll do it with a little help from Taegan Goddard's blog and the chart above from Michale Linden and Harry Stein of the Center for American Progress I'll cut to the chase, as the authors say, the Continuing Resolution (CR) is already a compromise. The numbers come from OMB.
Harry Reid offered up nearly everything Paul Ryan wanted budget number-wise. It's austerity on steroids. And it still isn't enough for the TeaPublicans because they want to decimate the government and any of its non-military programs.
The figures on the chart pertain to "discretionary" spending, which is not to say the programs therein are all optional. Take a look at the numbers again:
The Cato Institute, funded by a who's who of right-wing billionaires, big-money polluters, and corporations looking to preserve tax loopholes, is once again attacking assistance for the elderly, disabled & working poor. Here's how Cato's scam works: They assume every possible recipient takes 100% advantage of every possible benefit available to them. This is self-evidently stupid: If recipients were making as much as Cato laughably claims, their income would be too high to receive many of those same benefits.
But does that stop right-wing media from parroting Cato's nonsense? Of course not! Fox, Rush Limbaugh, and a litany of other talking heads were among those uncritically repeating Cato's claims. Not mentioned: That Cato and its extremist allies are totally fine with billions in annual taxpayer handouts for oil and coal polluters, corporate tax dodgers, and wealthy dead people.
God, I wish Mark Warner were up for re-election this year. When the time comes, primary the man. Somebody, please. Come to think of it, though, as we learned in Virginia previously, North Carolina this past year, and in South Carolina this week, voters can be as stupid as hell, voting against their interests over and over. Early polls show Virginia voters may be poised to redefine stupid ever more downward. How else can one explain that some voters actually think Kookinelli preferable in the VA governor's race or that Mark Warner is actually on their side? There is simply no Democrat more in the pocket of austerity emperor Peter Peterson. You recall, this buddy of the Koch brothers and 20th/21st Century co-conspirators against the American people for decades, is also co-architect of a plutocracy organized to enrich the 1% (and squash the rest like bugs). And it is time everyone understand what that means.
The discredited austerity emperors have been shown to have no clothes. The economic data since the 1980s show trickle down voodoo "economics" does not work. (So now the House GOP is considering legislation to end the collection of economic data so we cannot know the truth.) Similarly, the "research" supporting austerity does not exist. The infamous (Peterson-linked) Harvard duo just made the shit up and dropped data inconvenient to their preordained results. Ooops. But Mark Warner persists. (More commentary and the text of his remarks follows.)
Emerging like a cicada from whatever hole he's been hiding in, Ken Cuccinelli this morning announced what he calls his "jobs plan for Virginia". Instead, based on the Washington Post's summary, it looks like Cuccinelli's plan would simply do what Republicans love doing the most: rewarding wealthy individuals and corporations with huge tax cuts, while blowing a massive hole in the budget and saddling the rest of us with the bill. Specifically, Cuccinelli "calls for cutting the corporate income tax rate from 6 percent to 4 percent over four years, and reducing the individual income tax rate from 5.75 percent to 5 percent over that period." The result: "those cuts would cost state government about $1.4 billion a year."
How would Cuccinelli recoup that $1.4 billion a year it? He claims he'll do it by eliminating "tax exemptions and loopholes," but far more likely is that he'll have to do one or more of the following: 1) slash education spending; 2) slash spending on health care; 3) raise taxes on the working and middle classes; 4) screw Virginia's localities; and/or 5) destroy Virginia's AAA bond rating. Unless, of course, you believe that there really are $1.4 billion a year in "tax exemptions and loopholes" that realistically could be cut. And if you believe that one...
Also, see the following statement from the McAuliffe for Governor campaign, which sums it up nicely:
While Ken Cuccinelli has focused his career on divisive social issues like restricting women's health, his new foray into economic issues shows that he puts ideology ahead of sound fiscal management in Virginia. Cuccinelli's proposal would lead to a budget crisis that could undermine education, force localities to dramatically raise property taxes, and threaten the Commonwealth's bond rating. Under Governors Warner, Kaine and McDonnell, Virginia has maintained its reputation as a well-managed state but Cuccinelli's unrealistic and ideological plan would undermine that tradition. Virginians know there is no such thing as a free lunch.
Equally unrealistic is Cuccinelli's bizarre attempt to claim that he supported the recent work of Governor McDonnell. Cuccinelli's attempts to claim credit for McDonnell's signature transportation compromise have been mocked in the past since it is well-documented Cuccinelli was one of the extremists who tried to derail the bipartisan plan.
Terry McAuliffe has proposed realistic, mainstream solutions to make Virginia the best for business including responsible local tax reform, strengthening workforce training, streamlining economic development and diversifying Virginia's economy. While Cuccinelli tried to stop Governor McDonnell's transportation plan at each and every step, Terry was proud to encourage passage of the bipartisan compromise that will reduce gridlock and improve competitiveness.
You have heard at least a part of this story, but there is so much more beneath the surface. With their supposedly seminal 2011 work, "Growth in the Time of Debt," Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff were gurus to austerity hawks. Reinhart was, according to the NY Times, "the most influential female economist in the world." Indeed Paul Ryan lapped up the faux austerity "results." The same authors had burst onto the international stage in 2010 when they "found' grounds for austerity in another study.
"The authors purported to show that once county's gross debt to GDP ration crosses the threshold of 90%, economic growth slows dramatically," according to an Alternet article.
It turns out that that was a crock. Influential, you see, is not the same as correct. Another research team couldn't replicate the original authors' findings. So it requested the raw data.
Wonder why the President doesn't give a damn about his base, the folks who worked to put him in office?Yeah,it is because of Citizens United. Yeah, it's his personal flaw that he would sell us out to Wall Street and Big Oil, who are behind all the deficit Chicken Little. And Yeah, he is the worst negotiator ever. Of course that is assuming that he ever cared about ordinary Americans at all. And it bears mentioning he has given far less attention to creating jobs than creating austerity, or anti-jobs. He can't have it both ways.
So, he offers up massive "deficit reduction" after previously offering up trillions (2.6 trillion to be specific). He knows this will be recessionary, but he doesn't care. And then there are the cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs). They will affect each and every one of us over time. And they have an escalating effect on other things, such as tax brackets, as ElaineinRoanoke illustrated in her otherwise excellent diary today. Frankly, I do not understand the sanguine reaction expressed in that post. Here is a more appropriate reaction, imho. The cuts will eventually cause significant harm to most Americans. And the harm ought not to be shrugged off. We should be speaking out, loudly! We should be organizing! We should be on the mall in Washington. If only we could primary the president...Not that it would matter.
Primaries matter, of course, but even those of us who worked for him and donated something have little power. We have zero actually. 132 people pretty much run our political universe. As Lawrence Lessig illustrated in his Lesterland TED Talk, the US is Lesterland. The Lesters are the .05 percent (.05 percent, not 5 percent, of Americans). There are 144,000 Lesters in America's Lesterland. They gave the maximum personal contribution. They could afford thousands. BTW, only .25 percent of Americans give $200 or more to presidential campaigns. Guess who's never going to do that again?
[Read about the real purse strings below the fold.]
Just as Terry McAulliffe and even the President dutifully and publicly filled out their NCAA March Madness brackets, there was NPR telling listeners yesterday that it is all for naught. After all, any individual's chances of getting the brackets right is 9 quintillion to one for the 64 teams, which is way, way worse odds than the chance of getting struck by lightening. Getting it right is just too random to waste your time on "bracketology." It is a useless enterprise. But (almost) everyone does it. The widespread perception that one can actually get the entire March Madness brackets right is based on a misunderstanding of statistics, probabilities, and (yes) reason. But then we all misperceive probabilities, even those who know better. Regardless, all manner of sportscasters, celebrities and just plain folks occupy their time dutifully filling out their brackets.
So, I have to ask, is this useless enterprise more important than, say, defending seniors, kids and more against Paul Ryan (don't look now but an even worse version of his budget just passed the House today)? And do not citizens everywhere make better use of their time writing to the President and telling him to not throw us all (seniors, kids, workers, the sick, the poor, and more) under the bus or on "the table"? Wouldn't it be a better use of time to call Nancy Pelosi and tell her to stop caving before the negotiations even take place? The odds would be vastly better than 9 quintillion to one if every single citizen who cares got on the phone and on the email system of Congress. You can even do it while you watch!!!!!! Why, if every Democrat told their representatives her or she will withhold support if they don't stop the caving to the 1%, imagine how things might change!
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