Tag Archives: Virginia General Assembly

The size and scope of Virginia’s budget problem

In just a few minutes, Governor Tim Kaine will speak to a joint meeting of the General Assembly budget committees.  He is expected to announce cuts to both the state budget and state workforce.

We will blog about the details we learn today with regard to their impact on Virginia’s Community Colleges.

In the press clips this morning, we are learning about the size and scope of the budget challenge.  This was part of the report from Bob Lewis at the Associated Press: 

In his Wednesday morning address to the General Assembly’s money committees, Mr. Kaine will increase the official estimate of the projected budget shortfall through June 2010 to nearly $3 billion, said two Democratic legislative leaders who spoke anonymously because the governor had not made his plans public.

 

In his fourth round of cuts in barely a year, Mr. Kaine will propose about $1.7 billion in cuts on top of nearly $2 billion in earlier reductions spanning two state budgets, the legislators said in separate interviews with the Associated Press.

 

Jeff Shapiro with the Richmond Times-Dispatchis reporting that a cigarette tax hike that is part of Kaine’s plan is almost certain to lead to a fight with the Republican leaders of the House of Delegates:

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine’s proposal for balancing Virginia’s recession-ravaged budget includes doubling the cigarette tax, delaying an environmental tax break, drawing nearly $500 million from the “rainy-day fund” and pruning 1,500 state jobs, including 530 new layoffs.

 

The package Kaine will detail today, in which he would again go back on a promise not to raise taxes, is drawing criticism from tobacco-industry allies — among them, senior Republicans.

We’ll have more here as the day unfolds.

Virginia state budget details start to emerge

The snow flurries that appeared yesterday in parts of the commonwealth were not the only indication that Virginia’s winter may be long, dark and bitter.

According to a report from AP reporter Bob Lewis, General Assembly leaders are beginning to learn some of the grim details that confront Virginia’s budget.

…budget writers got their fullest look Tuesday at a darkening fiscal crisis that will soon force them to cut government priorities once held harmless.

“You are at the juncture where all the low-hanging fruit is gone,” members of the House Appropriations Committee learned from the chief of the committee staff, Robert Vaughn.

Virginia’s Community Colleges have already absorbed two different 5% cuts this year – a reduction of $40 million – despite the fact it is continuing to shatter previous enrollment records.

It is hard, however, to find much of a silver lining in the information being presented to law makers:

In the hard-hit real estate sector, Virginia in October saw a tenfold increase in the number of home foreclosures since 2004. People who held onto their homes have seen their equity wither the past two years. One telling measure from the Washington, D.C., market is that the percentage of people who forfeited deposits they had put down on contract to buy a house increased from 4 percent in 2005 to spike at 66 percent in August, largely a measure of buyers who could not secure financing, according to a George Mason University analysis.

Legislators were told to expect a grim 2009, expect a recovery late that year or early 2010, then a more robust economic expansion in 2011. Other glimmers of hope:

_Fuel prices continue to fall as the nation enters the winter heating season.

_There are signs that the worst of the housing slump may be over. And homes are more affordable now than they have been in three years.

_Military spending continues to buttress Virginia’s economy with an 18 percent increase in the past quarter. Virginia is second only to California in military spending.

We will learn more December 17 when Governor Kaine offers his budget amendments to a joint meeting of the General Assembly money committees.

Posted by Jeff Kraus

 

Virginia Higher Ed Bond Bill in the News

My colleague, Ellen Davenport, did a great job in this post of summing up what state leaders have done with the Virginia Higher Education bond bill and what it means for Virginia’s Community Colleges:

There are 25 projects included for Virginia’s community colleges.  The total value of the projects is estimated at $240.7 million. Community colleges received 23.8% of the total capital outlay funding provided in the bill. 

I wanted to add to it by sharing with you some of the news coverage the legislation is getting in media across Virginia (click on the publication’s name to follow a link to the story):

Lynchburg News & Advance:

Central Virginia Training Center in Madison Heights received $43 million for safety improvements and planning for the future in a statewide bond package approved Wednesday by the General Assembly.

Danville Register & Bee:

The referendum will fund about 75 projects at colleges, universities and education centers across the state, including projects at Longwood University, Danville Community College, Patrick Henry Community College and Southside Community College.

 The (Fredericksburg) Free Lance-Star:

Those projects include $18.4 million to construct the Dahlgren campus of the University of Mary Washington, $37 million to construct an information and technology convergence center at UMW, and $25.8 million for an academic services building at Germanna Community College.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch:

  • J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College: $10.8 million to renovate its downtown facility.
  • John Tyler Community College: $1.6 million for library renovations at the Chester campus.
  •  The Franklin News Post:

    The bond package includes projects for two community colleges serving Franklin County.  It contains $22.7 million for a new science and technology building at Virginia Western Community CollegePatrick Henry Community College will receive $8.7 million for a new motorsports workforce development center.

    The Virginian-Pilot:

    Tidewater Community College will get $36.9 million for a new learning resources building on its Virginia Beach campus and $20.6 million for a new academic building on its Chesapeake campus.

    The Washington Post:

    Most of the money will be spent on projects for community colleges and universities, including George Mason University in Fairfax County and the Northern Virginia Community College system. An additional $1 billion will be borrowed to spend on planning for another 25 projects.

    Posted by Jeff Kraus

    Gov. Kaine submits budget amendments

    Governor Tim Kaine released today his amendments to legislation passed by the General Assembly during the 2008 session, including amendments to the 2008-2010 budget.   A summary of Kaine’s amendments are contained in this press release.  There were 41 budget amendments, including some exchange between general funds and the Virginia College Building Authority for VCCS projects, and language clarifying the salary differential for Northern Virginia Community College Faculty.

    Amendments must be approved by a majority of each house of the General Assembly.  The General Assembly comes back to consider the Governor’s amendments on April 23.

    Posted by Ellen Davenport

     

    Virginia leaders differ on higher education spending cuts

    There is no joy in Mudville when budget cuts become the focus of a legislative session.  As the General Assembly reaches the mid-point of the scheduled 60-day session, different approaches to how and where additional cuts should be made to the state budget carry significant implications for Virginia’s Community Colleges.

    In announcing the commonwealth’s widening budget gap, Governor Tim Kaine proposed cutting higher education budgets after next year:

    For the 2009-2010 biennium, the Governor is recommending continued percentage cuts to executive branch agencies at 2% for higher education and 3% for all other agencies.

    House Appropriations Chairman, Del. Lacey Putney, in a statement released to the press, says the cuts should instead come from somewhere else in the budget:

    [T]here are several strategies proposed by Governor Kaine that we will not adopt, such as additional cuts to higher education, which would merely result in greater tuition increases, hitting middle income Virginians particularly hard.

    The eventual compromise that the House, Senate and Governor agree to will have a big impact on Virginia’s Community Colleges, which — according to SCHEV base adequacy calculations — are funded at the lowest level, along with Virginia Tech, among the commonwealth’s public colleges and universities. 

    Meanwhile, Virginia’s Community Colleges are serving the vast majority of new college students in Virginia, absorbing 80% of the commonwealth’s enrollment growth.

    UPDATE:  In a story in this morning’s Washington Post, high-ranking Republican lawmakers in the House continue to signal that they do not want to further cut the budgets of Virginia’s colleges and universities:

    Money to the state’s 16 four-year schools and 23 community colleges was reduced last fall in the state’s first round of budget cuts.

    “They took a pretty good hit back in October,” Del. Phillip A. Hamilton (R-Newport News) said. “I would hope we could avoid another round to higher education.”

    Hamilton, vice chairman of the Appropriations Committee, said he worried that the colleges and universities would have to make up for the cuts by raising tuition and fees.

    Posted by Jeff Kraus

    Bond Proposal Includes Record Construction Funding for Virginia’s Community Colleges

    Governor Tim Kaine is proposing an historic $1.65 billion general obligation bond for higher education.

    You can read the details in this press release from his office:

    “The proposed bond package supports innovative research, providing facilities across Virginia for researchers to develop new, cutting-edge technologies and turn them into commercial assets,” Governor Kaine said.  “Our colleges and universities also help us build a workforce prepared to compete in a global economy.  These investments will help Virginia’s higher education network keep delivering for our future.”

    You can see all of the projects the bond money would be used for by clicking on this link.

    VCCS Highlights

    • $340 million – 22% of the bond – would be directed to projects at Virginia’s Community Colleges.  (That’s a four-point increase over the 18% of the 2002 bond that went to community colleges.)
    • That money would be used for 28 specific projects including at least one on each of the 23 VCCS colleges.
    • The majority of those community college projects are focused on enhancing VCCS workforce development efforts.

     To be enacted, the proposal must be approved in the 2008 session of the General Assembly and then again by the voters in fall 2008.  Governor Kaine says that timing would allow the money from the new bonds to pick up just as the projects supported by the 2002 bond are wrapping up – ensuring there’s no gap in the building and renovations of Virginia’s higher education system (the 11th largest in the nation).

    Posted by Jeff Kraus

    Governor’s Budget Reductions Receive Scrutiny in General Assembly Money Committees

    Over the last few days, members of the Senate Finance Committee and the House Appropriations Committee have come to Richmond to be briefed on the September revenue report and receive an overview of the Governor’s budget reduction plan.  During the House Appropriations Committee meeting on Oct. 15, a spirited exchange occurred over the Governor’s  plans to close the $641 million budget shortfall in the current biennium with $300.3 million in budget reductions and other measures including up to $303 million from the Revenue Stabilization or “Rainy Day Fund.”

    Any use of the “Rainy Day Fund” must be approved by the General Assembly.  Speaker of the House William Howell and House Appropriations Committee Chair Vincent Callahan had issued a joint press release last week regarding a letter written by Callahan to the Governor and a memorandum from Appropriations staff director Robert Vaughn to Appropriations Committee members.  The correspondence  questioned why $170 million in carry forward dollars had not been used to balance the budget shortfall, and suggested that it could be used to reduce potential reliance on the “Rainy Day Fund.”  Coverage of the meetings is contained in stories from the Times-Dispatch, Daily Press, and Washington Post.

    The $170 million carryforward list includes projects and commitments by many of Virginia’s higher education institutions, as legally allowed under the higher education restructuring act which passed the General Assembly in 2005. 

    The Senate Finance Committee met today and Senate members had few questions about the Governor’s budget reductions and the September revenue report. 

    Reconciling the budget shortfall will be done via the Governor’s “caboose” bill for 2006-2008, which will be released at the same time as the Governor’s biennial budget for 2008-2010, on December 17.  State agencies and higher education institutions are currently completing budget submissions for the next biennium.  Meanwhile, the Governor’s Advisory Board of Economists will be meeting this month to put together the economic forecast upon which 2008-2010 biennial budget revenues will be based.

    Posted by Ellen Davenport