Let's take a look at some of the highlights (and lowlights) of Governor Kaine's proposed budget...
- The current $641 million shortfall will be taken care of by using $261 million from the "Rainy Day fund", overall cuts of $300 million, and $96 million will come from agency savings (i.e. unspent money).
- The 2008-2010 budget...is projected to be a little over $78 billion, which is the smallest increase in 12 years, only $4 billion more over the last biennial budget. Projected revenues are about $81 billion, so we might come out of this with a surplus.
- No new taxes, but an increase in the license renewal fee from $5 to $15. However, the once-a-year car inspections will now be once-every-2-years, and that price goes from $16 to $20. Ok, we're not saving on the renewal fee, but we'll actually save a whole $6 a year with the change in car inspect
- No government pay raises in 2008. However, state employees get a 3% pay increase, and teachers get a 3.5% pay increase, in 2009. I'm going to put this under savings, but I'm not sure why Kaine is using Daniel Snyder-esque "back end loading" of spending increases.
The explanation I've heard about why these increases are being structured this way is because of the "hope" that the economy improves by 2009, so the state will "hopefully" exceed revenue projections. "Hope"? That's the same platform Barack Obama runs on, so I'm guessing that's why Tim Kaine supports Obama.
So that's the "Politics of Hope", simply "hoping" things get better. That explains a lot...
THE INCREASED SPENDING...
- Education: $56 million to expand public preschool programs, $44.3 million in increased operating costs for colleges and universities (didn't I talk about how this could be a place to cut funds in an earlier post?), $1.6 billion in bonds for college/university campus construction projects (buy now, pay later...?), $36.4 million increase in student financial aid. $1 billion to upgrade education requirements for K-12 ("education requirements"? Like, the standard curriculum? That should only require a few pieces of paper).
- Business: $68 million to recruit businesses to Virginia. This should be spent wisely...although, isn't the state already a magnet in and of itself for business? The $7 million in subsidies allocated for small businesses to provide health insurance to lower-income employees is agreeable, as it would help take people off of medicaid, etc...
- Juvenile Delinquents: $159 million to provide special schooling and foster care for juvenile delinquents. If they're in foster care, shouldn't they be going to a real school?
- $46 million to repair "gaps" in the mental health care system, including $14.6 million for crisis mental health care. $14.6 million for "crisis" mental health care? We have to have funds on hand in case of a "crisis". Shouldn't our money go towards averting a crisis in the future?
- $180 million in transportation funds reverted back to the general budget for this biennium. Wait, didn't we have a BIG debate over the abuser fees that were supposed to pay for the supposed transportation needs? And now Kaine, who supported the fees and wanted them imposed on Virginia drivers only, wants to take money AWAY from the transportation fund?
There has been a lot of negative reaction on the blogs...some of it warranted, some of it not.
- On The Spot is not happy with this. In fact, there is a lot of sarcastic commentary about the budget.
- Right-Wing Liberal sees this as a very "Clintonian" way of expanding government without necessarily increasing spending. Decrease the amount of money spent and number of government employees, but no decrease in the actual size and scope of governmental power.
- Spank That Donkey notes that Kaine made a promise during his 2005 campaign not to touch the transportation fund for other purposes...oops. He also makes an excellent point that when you're looking at a possible recession, "the most prudent action of the government should be to trim spending, and provide a stimulus to the people."
- The GOP has their own doubts about this budget.
- Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling is "very disappointed."
Personally, I think Kaine's overall budget keeps the size of the actual "meat and potatoes" of the government's spending the same...but has some back-end increases in areas that don't necessarily need the increases. That's where the disappointment lies. Why increase spending on projects like Kaine's attempt at gradually implementing universal pre-K? We're not in a financial position to consider such a project, which is not even a good idea in the first place.
Kaine is to be commended on keeping his spending increase down...but if you're going to increase spending, do it to the areas that need it (infrastructure, transportation, commerce) and stop increasing it in less-important areas (universal pre-K, non-justified increases in secondary education spending).