Last night, Governor Bob McDonnell submitted his amendments to the 2012-2014 biennial budget update passed by the General Assembly during the 2013 session. The governor sent 52 budget amendments prior to the midnight deadline for executive action.
Governor McDonnell issued the following statement in regard to the budget amendments:
"Over the past three years, we have demonstrated that principled, conservative leadership works. Those efforts have created a foundation for job creation and economic growth. Our commitment to sound governance demands that we eliminate inefficiency, set priorities and invest wisely. I am pleased that together with the members of the House and Senate, we have done that once again. We have made the hard decisions and chosen to budget responsibly in these uncertain economic times and by doing so we have taken significant steps to strengthening the fiscal security of the Commonwealth. This year we are dedicating $95 million toward future required deposits to the revenue stabilization fund and will increase the rainy day fund from $295 million in 2010 to nearly $800 million by FY2014. These are investments that will pay dividends for generations.
"We made clear our budget priorities from the beginning. We sought new investments in transportation, public education and water quality. We urged continued investment in higher education and job creation. We removed the burdensome $45 million across-the board budget cuts to localities and worked toward the removal of the accelerated sales tax, which is now eliminated for 98 percent of retailers. Though the budget as passed accomplishes much of what we set out to do, I submitted several amendments that will strengthen our plan.
"While the enrolled bill achieves most of the major objectives I requested in my introduced budget, I am returning it with amendments to address five overarching themes: 1) continued efforts to address judicial workload and fill vacant judgeships, 2) provide general fund appropriations for select items that were funded by earmarks against dedicated funding streams, 3) restored reductions in several key areas, 4) necessary language changes, and 5) funding for new issues that have surfaced since you passed the budget bill in February. My spending amendments total just $14.1 million, the smallest adjustment of a budget post regular session by my administration.
"Virginia's excellent teachers sacrifice much to invest in the next generation of Virginia leaders. This year, we made it a priority to invest in them. My amendments add $2 million to the $5.5 million in new funding for strategic compensation for teachers on top of the 2 percent pay raise I proposed and the General Assembly accepted. This will allow local school divisions to reward and retain our best performing teachers. Additionally, I have proposed an additional $450,000 to help establish the Opportunity Educational Institution because I believe that we have an obligation to ensure that every child, regardless of zip code, deserves a world-class education.
"It is critical that as our economy recovers that we fill some of our key judicial vacancies. This is why I am proposing $1.8 million in additional funding to fill 11 vacant positions in courts that are either 40 percent or more above the state average workload or have at least two vacancies now or in the near future. These vacant judgeships are causing delayed hearing of court cases and are resulting in additional time before citizens have resolution of important legal matters. I am also proposing the creation of a new 15th Judicial Circuit seat to alleviate a high caseload in that circuit. We will have funded 32 of the 49 judicial vacancies this session to improve our judicial system.
"The General Assembly delivered a plan that requires that Medicaid is dramatically reformed before it can be considered for expansion. To address legal and policy concerns, I have proposed more specific and thorough reforms to ensure that Virginia will have sustainable, cost-saving changes in the existing program. My amendments provide for greater certainty as to the expectations of the General Assembly related to what reform means and what must be done before any potential expansion of Medicaid. While I remain opposed to the Medicaid expansion at this time due to the unsustainable 1,600 percent growth in Medicaid in the past 30 years, I have helped outline a plan for long-term reform to save money and get better patient outcomes.
"In addition, I have included amendments to increase our strategic investments in economic development that will continue to spur the creation of good-paying jobs in Virginia and the expansion of companies in our state, which is recognized as one of the best in the nation for business. I've included $481,000 for international trade initiatives to help expand overseas markets for Virginia companies, $500,000 for tourism, $100,000 for workforce development efforts, and $520,000 for increased investment in the rapidly growing fields of modeling and simulation.
"Through government reforms, audits, reduction in boards, commissions and agencies, employee incentives to save money, and many other cost-containment policies, we have controlled general fund spending. In FY 2013, we are just slightly above FY 2007 general fund spending levels, but nearly 1 percent below FY 2007 when adjusted for population and inflation.
"Virginia is on the right path, but we must continue to take strides to grow our economy, strengthen our workforce and increase our global competitiveness. This year's budget, combined with these amendments, does exactly that. I am respectfully asking the General Assembly to accept these amendments to make our Commonwealth stronger for the remainder of this biennium and for years to come."