Document details Va. gov’s budget cut priorities

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RICHMOND, VA. — Gov. Bob McDonnell’s budget-cutting strategy ranges from deep cuts in base funding for public schools to state worker furloughs and eliminating programs to aid the homeless, according to confidential legislative working papers.

The Associated Press on Tuesday obtained a four-page summary assembled by a legislative budget writing committee from briefings senior McDonnell budget advisers gave to committee members and staffs.

McDonnell is expected to outline his plan to trim $2.1 billion from the state budget during a news conference scheduled Wednesday morning.

McDonnell spokesman J. Tucker Martin declined to comment on the document late Tuesday.

It is the most detailed accounting yet of the administration’s priorities in attempting to reconcile a $4 billion revenue shortfall for state budgets through 2012, and provides the first clear picture of who will suffer the most from McDonnell’s proposed cuts.

The document shows that McDonnell wants to cut $730 million in state support to local schools from kindergarten through high school.

The largest bite comes from resetting the funding base to that used in fiscal year 2006, a two-year reduction totaling $225 million. Other cuts to education include $130 million from removing state salary supplements for sports coaches and department chairs, nearly $92 million from eliminating initiatives such as Mentor Teacher and school breakfast programs and nearly $20 million in savings from extending the work lives of school buses.

McDonnell plans even deeper reductions — nearly $925 million — from compensation and benefits to state employees.

That includes requiring state employees to take five unpaid furlough days off each of the next two years. State workers have already been put on notice that pay raises are out and that some will be expected to fund more of their retirement plans.

The new Republican governor, just one month in office, also recommends nearly $300 million in cuts to Health and Human Resources programs, the legislative summary says. Some of those programs are a lifeline to the state’s poorest residents.

Within the Department of Social Services, for example, McDonnell has suggested eliminating general fund support for nine programs outright, including $1.2 million for homeless assistance programs, $700,000 for domestic violence services, $4.8 million in child support supplements and $3.6 million for the state Healthy Families initiative.

From the Department of Health, McDonnell’s lieutenants have suggested eliminating nearly $1 million from a teen pregnancy prevention program, cutting $1.8 million for the Virginia Association of Free Clinics, trimming $2.2 million from the Virginia Health Care Foundation and eliminating local health department dental care services.

McDonnell’s first news conference on the state’s budget crisis comes one day after a monthly report from Finance Secretary Richard D. Brown showing a 6.5 percent drop in January revenues. The state is seven months into the current fiscal year and revenue collections are already 4.7 percent behind what they were for the same period last year. The fiscal year ends on June 30.