The Democratic Party of Virginia responded today to Governor McDonnell's announcement of Virginia's budget surplus.
In September of 2009, as covered by the Washington Post, Governor Kaine cut approx $1.35 billion from the Commonwealth's budget. (See background #1 & #2, and the Governor's official spending cuts in #3) Then again in December of 2009 he again made difficult spending cuts (see document #4).
Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw stated, "This surplus is the work of the General assembly money committees working on the recommendations of Governor Kaine. The current Governor had little or nothing to do with cutting the state's budget that led to this surplus."
While I support the effort to create a top-level commission to recommend policies to reform government, it is deeply disturbing that Governor McDonnell would appoint as its chair Fred Malek, whose history in "reforming" government includes creating lists of Jews serving in government to track and remove from government service. Was there really no more qualified individual in Virginia to lead this panel? Has he done anything to disavow and make amends for his previous anti-Semitism? Otherwise, it's one more slap in the face from McDonnell to Jewish state employees, coming right on the heels of allowing uniformed state police chaplains to proselytize to Jewish troopers and their families. These continued missteps from the McDonnell Administration are distractions from the competent and effective governing Virginians expect and deserve.See NLS for more on this disturbing appointment.
UPDATE: Del. Adam Ebbin chimes in.
It is cause for profound concern that Governor McDonnell would appoint Fred Malek to head his Commission on Government Reform. Malek's Nixon administration record of creating a list of Jews--with an eye towards removing them from public service--is still alarming today. There are certainly many capable Virginians who could assume this important position.
It is that sense of loyalty that has led [Fred] Malek, a prominent Republican rainmaker, to emerge as the leading defender of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in the wake of the 2008 election where she served as the party's vice presidential nominee.Wonderful. Oh, and there's also that little "Jewish cabal" controversy from Malek's days in the Nixon Administration. Other than that, Malek's a great pick to head this commission!
Palin's surprise resignation last week has made Malek a wanted man -- one of a coveted few in Washington who have a relationship with the Alaska governor.
But wait, there's more. The next person on the list is Alexandra Liddy Bourne, Executive Director of the American Energy Freedom Center.
George Allen recently announced the formation of the American Energy Freedom Center, a project of the Institute for Energy Research, yet another group attempting to fight efforts to stop the climate crisis with connections to Exxon.In June 2009, Bourne, "in her personal capacity as a nurse, took EPA to task for failing to identify any specific evidence of morbidity and other health risks linked to greenhouse gas emissions." Uh, you mean "health risks" like destroying the planet's environment? Oh wait, I almost forgot, people like Bourne and others at the far-right wing Heartland Institute don't "believe" in climate change science. Was Bourne a Kookinelli recommendation, or did McDonnell come up with her all by himself?
Almost 10% of the Institute for Energy Research's 2007 budget was provided by ExxonMobil. In 2007, ExxonMobil donated $95,000 of the $988,980 received by the Institute for Energy Research...
A couple more fine members of McDonnell's budget commission include:
*Our old pal Benjamin "Benedict" Lambert, a supposed Democrat who infamously endorsed George Allen over Jim Webb in 2006. Thankfully, Donald McEachin trounced Benedict in the June 2007 primary.
*Senator Mark Obenshain, by all accounts one of the craziest, most extreme right-wing members of the Virginia General Assembly. Last we saw him, he was ranting about the "North American Man-Boy Love Association," and Rachel Maddow was calling him out for "stoop[ing] to a pedophilia argument in a debate over McEachin's civil rights bill."
I can't wait to see what this commission comes up with!
Conservatives in the GOP always throw around this budget figure: "State spending over the past decade has grown 73 percent in the past 10 years." NOT TRUE.
The figure bandied about by those who begrudge any state revenue going to anyone except themselves includes directed funds, such as money that gives tuition help to state colleges. According to the latest JLARC report, the actual increase in state spending for the General Fund in the last 10 years is 46 percent.
If one is honest and corrects that figure for inflation and state population growth (10 percent), the state budget has grown only 8 percent over 10 years, or less than 1 percent per year. That is hardly profligate state spending.
However, here we go again...
An estimated 37,000 job losses and reduced economic activity of over $2 billion will likely result from cuts to state spending in health care and education under the budget approved recently by the General Assembly according to a new, comprehensive study released today by the Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis.As always, heckuva job by the Republicans.
In addition, the analysis estimates that the cuts will result in over $2.2 billion in lost gross domestic product over the biennium and over $1.5 billion in lost personal income.
"We are not just talking about a few jobs here," says Michael Cassidy, Institute Executive Director. "We're talking about causing the layoffs of more people than are currently employed with Northrop Grumman's Newport News Shipbuilding. That's never okay."
Using nationally recognized REMI economic modeling, The Commonwealth Institute estimates that 37,000 jobs would be eliminated under the General Assembly's compromise budget, which now awaits the Governor's signature.
"We've had four snowstorms and $4 billion in budget cuts," McDonnell told a small group of legislators who had been dispatched to his ceremonial quarters on the third floor of the state Capitol to inform him that the assembly was ready to adjourn. Senate Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw, D-Fairfax, replied, "You didn't have pestilence and fire."Maybe not, but with this horrible budget, we may feel like we've been through "pestilence and fire" here in Virginia before long. Ugh.
Budgets are moral documents that express our values as a Commonwealth and determine whom we lift up and whom we leave out. While the final version of the budget is less bad than the initial House version, I still cannot justify supporting a budget that balances the books on the backs of children and the poor and that includes a fiscally irresponsible shell game with the state pension trust fund.And how about bringing back the estate tax, repeal of which Tim Kaine foolishly signed into law? Why should we slash services for the neediest Virginians while the top few hundred families (out of millions of residents) get a huge tax break? It's wrong on every level - economic, political, moral - for Democrats to go along with this, so why are they going along with it? I call bull****.
Thanks to strong, unified, vocal opposition from House Democrats, the final budget is less bad than the budget House Republicans passed Feb. 25. For example, the final budget rejected the Republican plan to take money away from poor students and give it to students who are not poor, and it rejected the Republican plan to redirect federal Medicaid enhancement money from health care for the neediest Virginians to non-health care programs.
However, these concessions do not make up for the fact that the final budget cuts billions of dollars from public education, health care for the poor, public safety, and aid to localities, with no serious attempt to mitigate these cuts with revenue and no serious attempt to give localities the power to mitigate these cuts in their own. Even worse, the final budget still includes a risky, $800-million scheme to divert state contributions from the state pension trust fund, which will put Virginia's triple-A bond rating at risk and threaten our ability to meet our pension obligations to teachers, fire fighters, law enforcement officers, and state and local employees.
UPDATE: And thank you Scott Surovell!
My grandfather always taught me that you either pay less for things now or you pay more for them later. I do not believe these budget "cuts" are cuts. They are simply reductions in funding on going responsibilities that are now being pushed onto the poor, the uneducated, to middle class families and local government who now have to make the tough decisions.
Educating our children, caring for the poor, and keeping our public safe are a core responsibilities of state government. This Budget does not do that. It balances our budgets on the backs of the poor, the sick, the disabled, college students and their families, and the criminal justice system.
And we haven't done a single thing to resolve this state's transportation crisis.
UPDATE #2: See the Washington Post and WTVR for more on the state budget passage. The vote in the Senate was 34-6, and in the House 73-23. According to Anita Kumar and Rosalind Helderman, "The breakthrough on the budget came when Senate negotiators agreed to eliminate 60 percent of fees that they had proposed to preserve some programs." The result of which, of course, was to harm more vulnerable Virginians. Heckuva job.