RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - After months of cutting programs and jobs, the state government now appears to have more money than expected. It means the state workforce is about to cash in. But Virginia's troubles are far from over.
It's the kind of news Virginia hasn't heard in a while, and Governor Bob McDonnell wasn't about to keep it a secret. In January, Virginia faced a budget deficit of $1.8-billion. Six months later, there's a $220-million surplus. It means the state workforce will collect a onetime 3% bonus in December.
"There is much hard work to be done, and it is no time to let up on conservative budgeting," said Gov. Bob McDonnell (R).
The surplus also will be spent on improving education, water quality, and transportation. But it doesn't mean Virginia's budget crunch is over....it's just not as bad as predicted.
"I would say to my fellow citizens, that we are not at all out of the woods," McDonnell said.
The surplus was later praised, even by Democrats, including Delegate Joe Morrissey (D-Henrico), who said "I extend kudos to the governor, and the executive branch for their prudent management of our purse strings."
But critics said it's a surplus in name only.
"It's hard for me to view this as a true surplus when there are so many unmet needs," said Senator Don McEachin (D-Henrico).
Earlier, McDonnell said, "I'm disappointed that people wouldn't want to see a little bit of good news coming out of the Virginia budget. Both the legislature and the executive branch have worked pretty hard to get to the point where we can announce this."
McDonnell said the surplus was not impacted by the state's accelerated sales tax program, requiring businesses to pay their taxes early. That revenue was said to be already factored in. Whether the momentum continues depends on many things, including the credit and real estate markets, and the unemployment rate.
The December bonus for state workers will be the first extra pay since 2007, according to the governor's office. The numbers will be made official in August, but they're not expected to change much between now and then.