Budget battle has real life consequences

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Virginia's budget battle has real-life consequences, with local lawmakers unable to put a hard figure on money for services that impact us all. Many cities and towns are in the process of finalizing budgets. Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones says the city, just like other localities, can't make decisions without knowing what the state will do.

When you need critical services like police protection, cities and counties make sure they're there.

"What the state provides to us is essential for doing the work that we need to do for our citizens," said City Council Chair Charles Samuels.

As of now, all local leaders are able to do is estimate. No state budget means no hard figures can be set in stone, placing even hospitals and schools in limbo.

Richmond is trying to appropriate it's anticipated $777 million budget for next year.

"It's just a matter of pinning down an exact number," Samuels said.

Henrico's Board of Supervisor's Chair Pat O'Bannon said she's worried about how the uncertainty will impact education. Teachers will sign contracts in May. O'Bannon says not having a state budget casts a gray area on how many Henrico will be able to hire. That leads to another aspect of the budget battle, teacher pay.

'I think it's the minimum that folks deserve," said Donald Wilms with the Chesterfield Education Association.

He's referring to Governor McAuliffe's announcement he would like to see teachers get a 2 % pay raise. Wilms questions whether that's enough.

"A 3.3 % raise would just be keeping folks up with inflation which doesn't even feel like a raise. A raise is when you feel like you actually have more spending money," he said.

The Governor's plan also calls on the same raise for state employees.

"Two percent at this time will help bridge the gap between the private sector and public employees," said Johnna Cossaboon with the Virginia Governmental Employees Association.

It's all under debate. The House, the Senate, and the Governor all have separate budget plans.

"I have complete faith that the General Assembly and the Governor will find a solution," Samuels said.

The clock is ticking. Henrico adopts its budget in April. Richmond plans to do so by the end of May, leaving little time for any further delays.

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