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McDonnell proposes deep cuts in funding for schools, health programs in effort to balance budget
RICHMOND--Gov. Bob McDonnell announced proposals yesterday to cut $2.3 billion from the state budget, in part by shaving another $730 million off schools funding and $316 million from public health services.
McDonnell, who took office a month ago, has been under fire from Democrats who wanted him to make public his own spending priorities as lawmakers try to craft a two-year budget with about $4 billion less in revenue than expected.
Former Gov. Tim Kaine proposed such a budget in December, right before he left office. But he made only $2 billion in cuts, and relied on tax increases to cover the other $2 billion in revenue lost in the Great Recession.
Republicans immediately denounced the tax increases as a non-starter. Since then, lawmakers have been talking about how to cut that other $2 billion from the budget, even as interest groups such as sheriffs, teachers and advocates for the disabled have decried the first $2 billion in proposed cuts as devastating to their programs.
McDonnell's proposals would cut even more from public schools, but restore some proposed cuts from public safety. His plan would provide money for a new state trooper training school, and mitigate reductions to sheriffs offices by changing the deputy funding ratio to 1 per 1,650 people (Kaine's budget reduced it to 1 per 2,000).
McDonnell also proposes deeper cuts to Medicaid and other health services. His plan adds some money for community services boards to care for patients affected by eliminating state mental health facility beds, but it also cuts another 5 percent from the service boards' funding.
McDonnell's plan eliminates state money for respite services, reduces income eligibility for Medicaid long-term care, freezes enrollment in a health insurance program for poor children and pregnant women, and reduces Medicaid provider reimbursements by another 5 percent. It eliminates a program to prevent teen pregnancy, dental services at local health departments, and support for programs to help the homeless.
McDonnell also proposes closing five state parks, including Caledon Natural Area in King George County.