McDonnell budget boosts VRS, Higher Ed; Cuts Medicaid, Pre-K funds

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – It's the largest state budget in Virginia history, but -as usual- not everyone's getting the money they want.

Before the joint money committees of the General Assembly, Gov. Bob McDonnell said his budget is about setting priorities. And in this $85 billion proposal, he's pumping money into the state retirement system, roads and colleges...while critics say it comes at the expense of kids and the poor.

Not long after greeting the standing-room-only crowd, Gov. McDonnell set the tone.

"This will not be a status quo budget," he said.

McDonnell, a Republican, said he'll spend billions to replenish the state's retirement system, and millions more on higher education; announcements that first were made last week. Monday, the governor went a step further.

"We should not subscribe to the theory that government can only get better if it gets bigger," he said.

He's proposing to cut chunks of spending on medicaid and preschool education, and have cities and counties pay more into the retirement system...ideas that generated a tepid response from state Democrats.

"That's going to show up in either services that will be cut to local jurisdictions, local government and local  communities, and/or tax increases," said Del. David Toscano (D-Charlottesville).

"I'm very concerned about the skimpy amount of money going into public education," said Sen. Janet Howell (D-Fairfax).

But, later, the governor shrugged off such criticism, noting another significant investment in roadway improvements.

"For people to say we can't put $100 million into transportation, that's ridiculous," he said to a crowd of reporters.

From here, lawmakers begin reading all 483 pages of the budget proposal...reserving the right to make changes, though that wouldn't stop the governor from being optimistic.

"Heck, I'd be happy if you didn't make any amendments to what I'm suggesting to you today," McDonnell quipped to bipartisan laughter.

Republicans control both the House and Senate, so it would appear that many of McDonnell's ideas would be received favorably. We'll begin to find out when the General Assembly convenes January 11th.

In other developments:

McDonnell said his budget proposal does not raise taxes.

There will be no raises for state employees, and "very few" layoffs, he said.

State workers would be eligible for a bonus next year if certain savings goals are reached.

The proposal also includes about $10 million in new fees at the DMV.

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