While the General Assembly has taken preliminary steps to adopt a budget for the next two years, I want to update you on the process to date and my views on it.
Because of shortfalls in tax revenues and our struggling economy, we are engaged in tough decisions to cut an additional $4 billion in spending beyond the $2.9 billion already eliminated in the last few years.
Though it is clear that no one area of government can be safe from critical review and budget cuts, I am extremely disappointed in the House Republican budget.Education and health care are two of the most important services that government delivers to taxpayers.Yet, the House budget will cut $620 million in education and $200 million from health and human resources. The Senate budget includes $500 million more in aid to public education. Unfortunately, the priorities embodied in the House budget favor tax breaks for big business and Hollywood movie makers to produce films in Virginia over education and Medicaid.
While I support a healthy Governor’s Opportunity Fund of discretionary money to attract major employers to Virginia, increasing it when much of last year’s funds remain unused seems a misplaced priority with so many key needs being cut so heavily.We should not increase allocations in some areas when we risk losing the jobs we already have.Under the House budget, as many as 28,000 school teachers and 6,000 health care workers could lose their jobs.
We should not make large indiscriminate cuts without regard to their long- and short-term impacts. We should make strategic reductions, merge agencies and prioritize education and health care. Companies and taxpayers relocate to Virginia because of our outstanding education system and quality of life.The Republican House budget adopted in February relies heavily on cuts to the very aspects that make Virginia the “Best State for Business.”
The House budget eliminates all funding for the Virginia Arts Commission.This may seem inconsequential, but I disagree. I believe it is unreasonable to add millions more to advertise Virginia as a tourist destination while, at the same time, removing a significant reason that people come to visit and companies come to stay.
What now?I voted against the House budget proposal. The State Senate has adopted a separate budget that seems much more reasonable to me.By the time this column is published, I will have voted to adopt the Senate budget proposal. The majority of both houses will each reject one another’s budget. The two houses will then appoint a conference committee to seek a compromise.That could take weeks or months!
Adam Ebbin represents Virginia’s 49th District in the General Assembly.