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Taken on its own, the modest blue bump on the bar graph Governor Bob McDonnell displayed at his news conference yesterday was anything but eye-catching. But in the context of the economic downturn, the small bar that represented Virginia’s $220 million dollar surplus was monumental. Governor McDonnell and the Virginia legislature turned around a predicted $1.8 billion dollar budget shortfall to a surplus in only 6 months.
The achievement is even more noteworthy because Virginia is in the shadow of a federal government that is expanding daily on record deficit spending and is neighbor to a state government with floundering finances. Maryland and Gov. Martin O’Malley typified the crippling entitlement expectations by not adjusting their budget when federal health care funding stalled in Congress. In a year that otherwise would have amounted to a surplus, Maryland is going to be forced to use the money to patch up a hole in Medicare funding because they failed to deal with the issue at the proper time.
After proving his state’s financial credibility, Gov. McDonnell will be able to use the surplus to reinvest in his state. The Washington Examiner reports on the uses of Virginia’s surplus:
About $82 million of the surplus will go toward a one-time, 3 percent bonus for state employees, who haven’t received a raise in nearly four years. Ten percent will be set aside for Virginia’s Water Quality Fund, about $19 million will go toward K-12 education, and two-thirds of undesignated balance will go toward transportation.
Keep fighting and pressuring elected officials to be responsible with your tax dollars so one day the whole country can turn the words of Gov. McDonnell into a proud refrain: “We didn’t overbudget; we didn’t overspend.”