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State legislators pass a two-year budget
BY CHELYEN DAVIS
RICHMOND--State lawmakers passed a two-year, $70 billion budget yesterday that mitigates cuts to education and law enforcement, making up a $4 billion revenue shortfall by raising fees but without general tax increases.
They then adjourned the 2010 legislative session, which had gone one day into overtime to finish budget work.
House and Senate negotiators had worked until about 1 a.m. yesterday to finalize the budget deal.
Sen. Edd Houck, D-Spotsylvania, one of the budget negotiators, said he's satisfied with the final product.
"It's all damage control, trying to control the damage this horrible economy is causing to state services," Houck said. "We really have minimized the loss of jobs."
With little debate, the Senate approved the budget by a vote of 34-6; the House followed soon after with a vote of 73-23.
The pared-down spending blueprint for state operations reverts the budget through 2012 to its 2006 levels. And it leaves city and county governments to make up for state cuts by either curbing local services, boosting local taxes or a combination of both.
The budget contains deeper cuts than those proposed originally by outgoing Gov. Tim Kaine, who used tax increases to cover about $2 billion of the deficit.
The final budget increases various fees by about $100 million, and relies on more than $600 million in "savings" by not paying the full state share into the state employee retirement system for the next two years. It includes a requirement, insisted upon by the Senate, to repay that money within 10 years.
Cuts to public education ended up less dire in the final budget than had been proposed by the House of Delegates. The budget cuts $250 million from public education on top of the cuts proposed by Kaine.
The budget also suspends requirements for schools to provide staff for classes in English as a second language, elementary resource teachers, gifted-student teachers, librarians and guidance counselors. It increases the reimbursement for school breakfasts from 20 cents to 22 cents; reduces textbook funding; and provides money in the first year to make up a loss to some school divisions from a regular recalibrating of the composite index.
Even in the poor economy, lawmakers added 250 new waivers for services for disabled people, a priority of the House budget negotiators.
Here is the breakdown of state funding for local schools:
CAROLINE: $20.8 million
COLONIAL BEACH: $3.4 million in 2011, $3.5 million
CULPEPER: $32.7 million in 2011, $33.3 million in 2012
FREDERICKSBURG: $7.4 million in 2011, $7.8 million
KING GEORGE: $17.9
LOUISA: $16.9 million in 2011, $17.1 million in 2012
ORANGE: $21.3 million in 2011, $21.5 million in 2012
SPOTSYLVANIA: $110.5 million in 2011, $110.8 million in 2012
STAFFORD: $123.3 million in 2011, $127.5 million in 2012
WESTMORELAND: $7.5 million in 2011, $7.4 million
Major features of Virginia's plan for spending through 2012 that was approved yesterday: TAXES AND FEES
Includes about $95.4 million in new fees, such as increases
Retained 40 percent of the dealer discount, a small share of the state income tax merchants are allowed to keep for their trouble collecting and remitting the revenue, for about 94,000 of the state's smallest retailers. The budget as introduced recommended its elimination.
Sets aside $50 million to bulk up the state's Rainy Day Fund.STATE EMPLOYEES
Eliminates a proposal to require current state employees to contribute toward the cost
Converts the state-funded death and disability benefits program for state and local public-safety officers into an insurance program.
Requires one furlough day for state employees in 2010, but none in the remaining two years.
Allows for a 3 percent bonus for state employees in 2011
Cuts public schools by about $253 million, compared with the House's proposed $680 million in cuts and the Senate's $135 million.
Provides $29.5 million to reverse former Gov. Tim Kaine's decision to freeze the local composite index, a formula by which state school dollars are apportioned to local districts, and provides $174.1 million to lighten the blow to those school divisions that would have lost significant funding because of the change.
Extends the life of school buses from 12 to 15 years, saving $9.7 million each year.
Allows localities to increase class sizes by one student.
Eliminates nearly $35 million in funding for staff travel, lease and rental fees and facility costs.
Restores $4 million in funding to keep open the Commonwealth Center for Children and Adolescents in Staunton, including $1.3 million for children who may transfer from the Southwestern Virginia Mental Health Institute's Adolescent Unit in Marion, which will close.
Uses proceeds from the lottery to pay for summer school, some textbook purchases and other programs, and increases the amount likely to be available from the lottery by
Reduces funding for public broadcasting, the arts and libraries by 15 percent. The House budget originally eliminated the Virginia Commission for the Arts, but now reduces its funding by about $670,000, an additional 15 percent decrease.HEALTH AND HUMAN RESOURCES
Reduces funding by $360 million over the two years, but anticipates being able to restore the cuts with federal stimulus money.
If federal dollars are approved, it would mitigate Medicaid reimbursement cuts of
Restores $47 million in cuts to sheriffs and jails in 2011 and limits their reductions to 2.6 percent, instead of the 15 percent that was proposed.
Restores the 1:1,500 ratio for sheriffs deputies.
Cuts amount paid to house jail inmates by $2 million.
Provides more than $32 million for local police officers.
Provides $1.2 million for the state's two Internet Crimes Against Children task forces.
Restores funding for counterterrorism efforts and schools to train Virginia State Police troopers.
Closes one prison, to be decided by the Department of Corrections.COMMERCE AND TRADE
Provides $43 million to attract businesses to Virginia, including $7.2 million to promote tourism and $2 million to lure moviemakers to the state.NATURAL RESOURCES
Retains funding for state parks.MISCELLANEOUS
Adds 20 more Alcoholic Beverage Control stores across the state and adds 2 percent
Freezes 17 judicial vacancies and any others that may become open through 2012.
--The Associated Press