Anybody who has been following the debate around the federal budget knows that it’s going to be a tough partisan battle. The GOP is proposing so many drastic cuts that Capitol Hill is actually abuzz about a potential government shutdown. While we have some uncertainty about the fate of the federal budget, a compromise budget was passed unanimously by both chambers of the General Assembly yesterday down in Richmond.
Based upon what I’ve heard from staffers and a few members of the General Assembly, the Democrats fought extremely hard during negotiations to prevent some of the drastic cuts that McDonnell and the Republicans were proposing. Budget conferees, for instance, were able to restore $75.6 million to Virginia’s public schools division that the House GOP had wanted to cut. They also got $16.3 million over the biennium above the introduced budget for higher education. Restoring these funds to our education system will go a long ways in helping to provide students with the skills they need to enter the 21st Century job market.
Members of the Senate appear to understand the importance of providing students with access to a high quality education and that is why they fought so hard to restore the funding to education. That is why Senator Mary Margaret Whipple pointed out that “this budget compromise is more than just a victory for Senate Democrats; it’s a victory for the children of the Commonwealth.” She went on to say that “the state cut nearly a billion dollars in aid to public schools over the last several years. Although the impact of those cuts will continue to be felt for some time, this budget is a step in the right direction.”
There were also some key victories regarding the budget for health and human services. The Republicans in the House of Delegates had wanted to cut $37.7 from the budget, but the Democratic budget conferees were actually able to end up adding $66.8 million or Medicaid provider restorations and $30 million to the Behavioral Health and Developmental Services Trust Fund. After the budget passed, members of the Senate made it clear that these efforts were made because during these tough economic times it is especially important for somebody to stand up for the most vulnerable citizens.
“The Senate’s position on HHR was very clear. It is our firm belief that we must be advocates for Virginia’s most vulnerable citizens: children, frail elderly and the disabled,” Senator Edd Houck said. “We also saw this as an opportunity to support Virginia’s small businesses which are largely represented by health care providers. So yes, it is Medicaid restoration, but it’s a restoration of health care jobs.”
What this means is that while there are some things about the budget I don’t like, the Democrats in the General Assembly were able to get some victories that will truly benefit the general public. As we move forward, one can only hope that Democrats on the national level are also able to prevent some of the drastic cuts that the GOP proposed.