Likes and Dislikes in the House and Senate Budget Proposals

Monday, February 22, 2010

Based on these highlights of budget bills by the Virginia State Senate and House of Delegates, it looks like the Senate's version is better but far from ideal. The House bill is, basically, what you'd expect from a bunch of rigid ideologues - as Del. Bob Brink says, "It would leave us with third-rate schools and a third-world health system." Pretty much.

So, what about the Senate bill? Here's what I like and what I dislike.

I like that the Senate budget cuts public education far less ($133 million over two years) than the House budget ($310 million a year) does. I like that the Senate budget "would not close five state parks outlined by McDonnell to be shuttered." And I like that the Senate "calls for $540 million in new revenues through 2012."

I do not like that the Senate budget continues to spend huge amounts of money reimbursing to subsidize cars, at the same time that it slashes teachers, health and human services, etc. That seems like a purely political decision, given that the car tax is hated by so many Virginians, not one based on sound economics or budgeting. I do not like that the Senate budget slashes payments to the Virginia Retirement System. See here for more on that subject. I do not like that the Senate budget proposes millions of dollars in corporate welfare - tourism marketing, Hollywood movies, wine, god knows what else - at a time of painful budget cuts to people.

In short, I don't like a lot of things about either the House or Senate budget bills, but at least there are a few things I like about the Senate bill; the House bill is pretty much hopeless. Having said that, I'm obviously well aware that we're going through a period of austerity and that there are going to have to be painful budget cuts in our Commonwealth. I'm also well aware that we don't want to be raising taxes in the middle of a recession, but I'm also aware that we equally don't want to be cutting services for the poorest and most vulnerable among us.

In short, what I'm looking for is not a magic solution, but for a balanced package of cuts where they are least painful and increased revenues from those most able to pay them (e.g., reinstate the Virginia Estate Tax!). Also, I am certainly not looking for Virginia's state government to take on additional corporate welfare programs at this time (or any other time?). Other than that, I love these bills - great work, guys! Heh.