Today the State Senate voted to accept the Conference Committee report from the House and Senate budget negotiators. With that, the Budget was enacted and the 2010 session came to an end.
The Conference report is a long and complex document. Here are the highlights:
K-12 Education: The Senate was able to save Virginia from about 80% of the House-proposed education cuts. The overall K-12 reduction from the introduced budget will be $253 million. That is still a significant sum (about 2% of our schools budget) but definitely manageable. The “true LCI” will be used to allocate educational funds.
Public Health: The conferees used about $370M in new Federal funding to restore provider cuts to Medicaid and lift the freeze on Medicaid waiver slots. We also adopted some new state fees to help fund state trauma centers and EMS services. Overall, with those two new revenues, we are able to keep state services generally equal.
Public Safety: About $167M is restored to Sheriffs and other local officials. We also restored funding which supports local police. We are phasing out two prisons to cut costs. We are also leaving vacant several judicial vacancies (I’m going to hear about this one). Crime continues to pay — extra fees that is. Each conviction will get a $10 penalty extra to fund childrens’ services.
State Employee Benefits: The VRS deferral will end up netting $620M in savings for this biennium. That is a huge savings but it substantially changes the nature of VRS. New employees after July 1 will be required to pay their retirement share. The state will no longer pick it up. We will continue the 1-day furlough proposed by Governor Kaine.
Higher Education: Some small reductions here to TAG scholarships and other selected projects. Otherwise, the conferees left the colleges alone. They have already lost 25% of their funding since 2007 so there’s only but so much you can do.
Economic Development: The only winner in the budget. The conferees agreed to put in $46M in new spending here per the Governor’s January request. We’ll see how this works out. I have my doubts but let’s save that for later.
Overall, it’s a tough situation. In Fairfax City, my hometown, we are losing $350,000 in school funding which is about 5 teachers. Of course, that’s a pittance compared to larger jurisdictions like Chesterfield that lose $18M or so. Nearly every single jursidiction will be adversely affected, except Fairfax County and Loudoun which get the one-time benefit from the true LCI (note that they still receive far less per capita than nearly every other school district).
I don’t celebrate this conference report. But I did vote for it. And it passed 34-6 on the Senate floor.
And I thank the conferees and staff for sticking in there to get this done.