In a town hall meeting at the Falls Church Community Center today, State Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple and State Del. Jim Scott told constituents that they were “very discouraged” going into the “incredibly difficult” budget deliberations in Richmond this month.
They noted that, faced with $4 billion in shortfalls, the new Republican Governor and his Republican majority in the House are adamantly opposed to raising any new taxes to help offset the impact on the expenditure side of the budget ledger.
“Budgets are about balancing revenues and expenditures. We go through that every year. But when revenues are down as badly as they are now, it becomes incredibly difficult when one side involved in that balancing is taken away,” Whipple said.
“Gov. McDonnell says that while he won’t raise any new taxes, he won’t cut the state budget for economic development because that is an investment in the state’s future,” Whipple said. “But there are other programs that involve investments in the state’s future as well, such as the enormous cost savings that derive from funding programs for at-risk four-year-old preschool programs. If these children can read at or above grade level by the third grade, the chances for their entire lives are enormously enhanced, and the results of the investment are immediate. We’re going to be very hard-pressed to hold onto that program,” she said. “But there are lots of ways to look at investments.”
She also made her point by citing the impact of Medicaid waivers that help keep the elderly in their homes, compared to the much higher cost of forcing them into nursing homes. Medicaid waivers that allow for early treatment of elderly issues such as routine podiatry care wind up saving the state tens of millions, she said, noting the startling statistic that $43 million in Medicaid was spent on amputations last year.
With unemployment rising in Virginia and in some parts of the state, as in Martinsville, over 22 percent, the effect of the state budget cuts will be to cost 10s of thousands of jobs, Scott noted. “Instead of reversing the unemployment trend, we’re going backwards,” he said.
Scott said that he “doesn’t hold out much hope” for his proposed local option to add a half-cent to the sales tax to relieve local revenue pressures, because of the GOP’s opposition to any new tax options and the fact that there is no evidence of a ground-well of demand for it coming out of local and regional jurisdictions. He noted that having the option would add $80 million in new revenues for Fairfax County alone.