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Gov McDonnell tweaks state budget

Gov. Bob McDonnell has filed his amendments to the two-year budget state lawmakers passed late last month.

Under an agreement between McDonnell and lawmakers, he had only seven working days — rather than 30 — to propose his amendments, something both sides agreed to so as to speed up the process. The budget was already more than a month behind schedule when legislators finally voted to pass it, and local governments are writing their own budgets now.

He proposed 105 amendments in all — 17 to the “caboose” budget that finishes out this budget year, and 88 to the 2012-2014 budget.

McDonnell said in a news release Saturday that he restored $19 million in funding for economic development programs; the legislature had cut out $47 million in requests for those programs from McDonnell’s original proposed budget.

“I believe strongly that Virginia must invest in attracting and retaining private-sector job creators and capital,” McDonnell said in the release. “Therefore I have restored a significant amount of economic development funding stripped by the General Assembly. This strategic investment in attracting and supporting private-sector job creation is crucial to ensuring that the 250,000 Virginians who are still looking for good-paying jobs to feed their families secure employment in the years ahead.”

McDonnell has also proposed to eliminate a provision that exempted state lawmakers and the top state elected officials from paying their five percent employee contribution to the Virginia Retirement System. VRS reforms in the past couple of years have required all state workers to start paying their own five percent contribution — the state and local governments formerly paid it. But the budget specifically exempted most legislators, some judges, the governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. That’s because constitutionally, the compensation of judges and the top three elected officials can’t be reduced during their term. Requiring them to pay the five percent contribution would count as a pay cut, and there was no proposal for an offsetting pay raise like state workers received.

McDonnell said several lawmakers had asked him to amend the budget so that legislators will be treated the same as other state employees, required to pay the five percent contribution (lawmakers elected for the first time last November are already paying their employee share). That will be offset by a pay raise “when constitutionally permitted,” said the press release. The constitution says that lawmakers can vote to raise their pay, but they won’t receive the raise until after the next election. You can read more on the background of the budget provision here:

McDonnell also proposes an amendment to add$2.7 million more to recruit teachers for science, technology and math subjects and to fully fund the third-grade reading program.

He also wants a two percent pay bonus for state workers this November, contingent on agency savings, and a pay raise for state employees in 2014.

To pay for his changes, McDonnell said he will claim unused debt allocations, year-end balances, revised lottery profits and “targeted spending reductions.” He said the total comes to $53.8 million, which will leave the state with an unappropriated balance of $22 million.

The detals of McDonnell’s amendments are not yet online on the state legislative services website. House Clerk Paul Nardo said staff are checking electronic versions of the amendments, and that they should be publicly available by Monday afternoon.

Legislators plan to return to Richmond May 14 to handle the governor’s budget proposals.