Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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February 19, 2010

Virginia budget: House, Senate offer cuts

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The House Appropriations Committee on Sunday will recommend a budget that rejects Gov. Bob McDonnell’s proposal to impose five annual unpaid days off on Virginia’s state employees, members of the committee said.

But the first official House blueprint of the state budget will incorporate most of the roughly $2.1 billion in bone-deep state spending cuts through 2012 that the new Republican governor recommended earlier in the week, committee members said in Associated Press interviews Friday.

“There’s not much appetite on our side for furloughs,” committee Chairman Lacey Putney, an independent from Bedford, said Friday.

The money necessary to avoid the furloughs — approximately $180 million — would come from an expected revenue increase of about $200 million through 2012 that the McDonnell administration forecast Wednesday.

The Republican-run committee will side with the Republican governor, however, in rejecting Democratic former Gov. Tim Kaine’s proposal to require existing state employees to contribute up to 2 percent to their retirement packages from their take-home pay. New state government hires, however, would have to contribute 5 percent to their retirement plans.

In the Democratic-controlled Senate, the Finance Committee will also make deep cuts, but many of the $730 million in cuts McDonnell recommended for public education from kindergarten through high school will be rejected, said committee Chairman Charles J. Colgan, D-Prince William.

Colgan also said some of the safety net services that McDonnell wants severed will be funded in the Finance Committee budget, but McDonnell may find support for his furloughs.

“I’d kind of like to see them,” Colgan said, referring to the furlough days. “I think that’s one good way to save $180 million. Sure beats having to fire people.”

Both of the money committees expected to spend Friday and some of Saturday working out fine points of the spending documents for the 2011 and 2012 fiscal years. Sunday is the deadline for advancing both budgets to the House and Senate floors. Final votes on the two bills are set for Thursday.

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