Source: Virginia budget surplus hits $400-million

By Andy Jenks - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Virginia is going to need a bigger purse. Sources at the Capitol say the current budget surplus is much larger than expected.

An aide to the governor -speaking on condition of anonymity- told the Associated Press that the final budget surplus is big enough to buy a professional sports team. Of course, state agencies and the governor himself would have other plans for that money.

Governor Bob McDonnell walked confidently to the podium and delivered the good news. On that warm day in July, McDonnell said Virginia's budget surplus was $220-million. Now, a source tells the AP, the number is closer to $404-million.

It came by cutting jobs and programs while reducing money given out to education and public safety. Critics wonder, now, if all that was lost, are they coming back? But that's not likely.

"When I hear the word surplus, I assume that we've met all of our unmet needs, and clearly we haven't done that in Virginia," said Sen. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico).

Virginia started the year several billion dollars in deficit, and still, is coming up short - just not as badly as predicted.

"I don't know that you can be criticized for missing something like this, the fact is we're dealing with  projections and no one can say exactly how the economy is going to turn out," said NBC12 political analyst Dan Palazzolo, a professor at the University of Richmond.

So where will all this extra money go? First, a 3% bonus for state workers. Then, by law, some of it goes toward education, water quality, and transportation. But it could be years until anyone notices an improvement.

"I think the overarching problem is we do not have the political will to raise revenue," McEachin said, referencing the idea of raising the gasoline tax, or freezing car tax relief.

Until then, our political analyst believes the surplus is an opportunity to work across party lines and decide who gets the money.

"It could be that, okay, now here's the good news, let's sit down and talk about what we do with this good news," Palazzolo said.

The governor's staff declined to comment on the AP report. McDonnell will offer details on the surplus Thursday, when he briefs state lawmakers on the Virginia budget.

The 3% bonus for state workers is a one-time payment being made in December. It will cost about $82-million.

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