Sour grapes for education, Gov. McDonnell cuts state social programs

Eric Hill

Opinion Editor

Not to be pessimistic but start stocking up on your ramen folks, the Republicans are back in Governor’s mansion and that means the poorhouse is about to lose a wall and the school building is about to lose its roof.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported on Feb. 17 that a series of confidential budget papers were obtained from a legislative budget-writing committee outlining what McDonnell recommends to do to fill the over $4 billion budget shortfall for the projected fiscal years 2011 and 2012 (the budget it balanced every two years in Virginia.) Who’s the biggest loser in this proposal? That would be the thousands of state workers who will be forced to take 10 furlough days ($180 million) and cuts into their pensions ($550 million) not to mention the $730 million that K-12 education will lose.

Who are the other victims of this budget from hell? Well we won’t have anymore state funding for public television after four years, there will be cuts to homelessness services, teen pregnancy prevention programs and a large chunk of health care funding will be taken out of the budget (on the order of $300 million).

So why all of the cuts in these areas? Well Bob McDonnell has a thing against raising taxes against big business, he also has a problem with having to buy his wine from another state. If you didn’t get that reference, it is to the proposed spending increases (yes, Bob does suggest spending money sometimes) for the Governor’s Opportunity Fund. One of the grants proposed in the Governor’s Opportunity Fund by the governor himself was an incentive to market Virginia wineries, according to the Virginia Economic Development partnership website The website proudly proclaims that Virginia is the fourth friendliest state for corporate taxation.

Now the amount of money Bobbo wants to give to the Virginia wineries is small compared to the budget gap that we’re facing, but it shows where Bob’s ideological bones are. Ten years ago a similar thing happened when then Gov. Jim Gilmore attempted to give almost $1 million in small business money for a Wal-mart plant. The budget crisis wasn’t as bad then as it is now, but it flies in the face of real fiscal conservatism when you are incentivizing corporate involvement on a small scale while chopping social programs on a large scale. The Governor’s Opportunity fund awards tens of millions of dollars in grants for producing anywhere from 50 to 100 jobs, which doesn’t sound like small business economics to me. Considering that the median income for a single individual in 2006 was $29,000 according to the U.S Census Bureau, that isn’t any loose change. McDonnell’s proposed budget calls for an increase of $12.1 million as reported by the Washington Business Journal in late January.

So here we have the same game of attempting to give tax credits and incentives to corporations and new small businesses. The state’s economy does better but the taxation is so low that every year it gets more and more difficult to balance the budget, so we continue to cut taxes and reduce social programs. As it stands our public schools systems are wallowing in mediocrity when compared to educational systems overseas. Yet we consistently decide to short education funding when it inconveniences our purses.

Now the state budget is more complex than this. There is entrenched wastefulness in many social programs and cleaning house is good, however thinking that private business will solve our money woes will not help us. What will solve this budget issue is a new look at the tax code, a simplification and the removal of all of these cumbersome “credits” which create holes between collections and refunds. Why can’t we create a flat sales tax, so that consumption itself is taxed? Establish a base minimum tax at a base income and then tax consumption. If you save your money by consuming less and pooling resources, then you can start a business with cash in hand, instead of having to rely on the government or a bank to fund you at interest. I would rather pay higher taxes and live with educated and secure people, then live in a land where the people are free to be stupid and capitalize without social responsibility.

The buck does not stop at K-12, higher education will have to pay the piper too in due course. When your tuition jumps by double digits, or your major disappears, you too will feel the effects of the Republican social crunch. So tighten your belts, and try to get a new job with a “small” business. Maybe they will give you a good paying job, without a degree.


  1. “When your tuition jumps by double digits, or your major disappears, you too will feel the effects of the Republican social crunch.”

    You seem to suggest that Republicans and/or Bob McDonnell is responsible for the rising costs of school tuition. However, the dramatic rise started under the previous Governor, Tim Kaine.

    From June 2009:

    “Virginia’s five largest state universities – Virginia Commonwealth, George Mason, Old Dominion, Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia – have raised tuition by 5 to 7 percent for the coming school year.

    The tuition increases will help offset a decrease in state support for higher education. The state budget cuts funding for four-year institutions by 15 percent and for two-year institutions by 10 percent – a total reduction of about $212 million.”

  2. I am not impressed by the new VA governor. Anyone who could have Cucinelli as a State Attornery General is incompetant at best. both of these “gentlemen” care more about self-interest and ego than doing anything to improve the state and the lot of people that they supposedly represent. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson would roll over in their graves if they knew about these uncaring, incapable and ineffective leaders. Case in point – drunk driving in Virginia and using interlock devices to stop DUI offenders from getting back behind the wheel and killing and injuring innocent people again. There is a real reluctance to do anything about this at the state level and do you know why? It is because the defense attorneys who defend the indefensible would lose their income if there were less DUI cases and less deaths and injuries due to drunk driving. When will we get politicans who are more interested in doing the right thing rather than seeking self interest or more campaign funds. We ought to ban campaign funding altogether and take that money and give it to higher education so that we can compete better globally and create jobs. What a novel idea!!!!! lnhter Iielseur

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