INTERVIEW: Virginia's budget surplus

By Ryan Nobles - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – It has been a busy week in Virginia state politics. Governor McDonnell announced a $400-million stimulus in the state budget and he continued his push to privatize the state's ABC stores. Colonial Heights delegate Kirk Cox is the Vice Chair of the powerful House Appropriations Committee. He is also a close ally of Governor McDonnell. I'm also learning he's the former teacher of just about everybody that works at NBC12. So we appreciate you being here, sir.

Kirk Cox: Thank you, I appreciate it.

Ryan Nobles:  First, let's talk about ABC privatization. You were at the meeting that the governor had last night in Chester. Yesterday the democratic Senate leader, Dick Saslaw, basically suggest that the idea of ABC privatization has no chance in the legislature. He even suggested that the republican-controlled House, which you're a member of, won't approve it. From where you're sitting, what are the chances realistically of governor McDonnell pushing through ABC privatization?

Kirk Cox: They're pretty good. I don't think you can handicap it at this point. The proposal is not even out there. Dick would like to see, frankly, gas tax increase and Dick sees if you put money for transportation out of ABC privatization that hurts the chance for a gas tax increase. But he's going to fight hard --

Ryan Nobles:  So you think it's a three-card monty here?

Kirk Cox: It is but it's way too early to tell. If the governor makes up the revenue, I think it has a real chance passing and he's working hard towards that, so I think ultimately it probably will pass, but it won't be easy.

Ryan Nobles:  Let's talk about something you're very involved in and that's the budget, of course. The Gov. announced to the money committees, this idea there's 400 million extra dollars in the budget, most of that already accounted for. What do you attribute this extra money to? Is it responsible budgeting, creative accounting, or is it because there was a great deal of stimulus money given to the state from the Obama administration?

Kirk Cox: Of course, it was really responsible legislating. I really mean that. Some of it was sales tax increase, some withholding went up, but one of the things that was really good and I give state employees a lot of credit, about $175-million was simply assistance of state government and I think one of the things we did which was wise, the state employees getting a 3% bonus. That's contingent on what the surplus was, so they went back and found a lot of efficiencies and some of it is that, but it's mainly good revenue forecasting and I think good budget.

Ryan Nobles:  It's a sunny picture now, but could you run into the same sort of problem next year when you go through the budget process?

Kirk Cox: There's no question. October, November, the governor's economic forecasters will sit down with him and the legislature and we better be very conservative. I'm worried about that. As a matter of fact, before we go spending the surplus, we need to know what the growth rates are going to be. Currently we projecting about a 3.8% growth rate and that's pretty slow coming out of recession. If it's less than that, we probably have to bank some of that money for basically a reserve.

Ryan Nobles:  So a lot more to talk about as the weeks and months go ahead. I appreciate you coming in.

Kirk Cox: Thank you, I appreciate being here.

See the video at right for the full interview.

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