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McDonnell Makes Final Budget Pitch to Lawmakers - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

McDonnell Makes Final Budget Pitch to Lawmakers

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RICHMOND, Va (WVIR) -

With less than a month left in office, Governor Bob McDonnell introduced his final budget to the General Assembly money committees Monday morning in Richmond.

This is one of the governor's last official acts in the state's highest office. It's a chance to leave his mark on state spending for the next two years. But Monday, McDonnell urged cooperation and compromise on the budget as his successor prepares to take over next month.

The two-year, $95.9 billion budget includes funding for pre-K, K-12, and higher education. The University of Virginia will receive more than $10 million for focused ultrasound and cancer research.

The budget also sets aside $38 million for improving Virginia's mental health services.

"I think there's a clear need for additional community and crisis mental health resources and supports, based on events we've seen in Virginia and Connecticut and other places over the last five or six years," McDonnell said.

Democratic Senator Janet Howell said, "What we've had has been cruel and often not effective, and I think this input of money will make a big difference."

Though she'd like more funding for education, Howell says overall she's pleased with the governor's proposals.

But this is just a jumping-off point. McDonnell is also setting aside a chunk of the general fund to help lawmakers and Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe with other priorities.

“I have left an unappropriated balance in the general fund of $50.9 million just in case you have any spending ideas of your own which you'd like to implement. Merry Christmas, Mr. Chairman,” McDonnell said.

The budget as drafted contains no new fees or taxes. And although, at almost $96 billion, it is the largest budget in state history, McDonnell says his team has kept spending increases below the rate of inflation.

McDonnell has a little more than three weeks left until he passes the reigns over to the governor-elect.

McAuliffe will make his own budget recommendations to the General Assembly sometime in mid-January.

Office of Governor Bob McDonnell Press Release

RICHMOND- Governor Bob McDonnell unveiled the Commonwealth’s budget for the next two fiscal years in a morning address to the Joint Money Committees of the General Assembly. The budget, totaling approximately $95.9 billion for the biennium (General Fund: $37.7 billion; Non-General Fund: $58.2 billion), continues the governor’s focus on promoting private-sector job creation and growing the Commonwealth’s economy in spite of ongoing fiscal uncertainty at the federal level.

In addressing the Joint Money Committees, the governor remarked, “We have talked many times about the “Virginia Way” by which we govern. We analyze and debate budget and policy issues passionately but civilly. Then we find common ground and solve problems. The Virginia Way is one of sharing credit for getting positive results for the good of our people. Eight million people are counting on the Virginia Way continuing!

“This approach is especially important today when my introduced budget is handed off to a governor-elect of a different party. Accomplishments and progress require statesmanship in both branches of government. I hope you will find the Virginia Way at work in these budget recommendations. The major spending recommendations focus on the core public services which lead to prosperity. They also decrease our reliance on budgetary gimmicks that helped in the past but run counter to structural balance and sound financial judgment. You will also find a fair amount of embedded caution, given the global economic and national political uncertainty.”

The governor concluded his remarks noting, “Over the past four years we have worked together to put the “Virginia Way” to work in building a “Commonwealth of Opportunity” for all Virginians. With your cooperation, we have gotten very good results for our citizens. Unemployment has fallen from 7.4% to 5.6%. Over 172,000 net new jobs have been created, and we are the country’s most business friendly state! We passed the first long-term transportation funding plan in a generation. Our colleges and universities are more affordable and accessible, and on the way to issuing 100,000 new degrees for Virginia students. We reduced the future liability in our pension system by $9 billion. We’ve brought more innovation, accountability, and choice to our K-12 system and rewarded our excellent, hard-working teachers. We’ve cared for the prisoners, the orphans, the hungry, the mentally ill, and the homeless, as the Scriptures say we must. Today, as I enter my last weeks as governor, I sincerely thank you for your strong partnership, your warm friendship, and your can-do, results-oriented leadership. By any metric, Virginia is stronger today, and we left the campground better than we found it. Our economy is growing. Our schools, roads, pensions, people, natural resources, and jobs are stronger. Now, as you consider this biennial budget, I ask that you keep this progress going and work with Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe and his team to accomplish even more in the years ahead.”

The governor’s full remarks can be read here.

General Fund revenue growth of 4.2 percent is expected in fiscal year 2015, with growth of 3.9 percent anticipated in fiscal year 2016

Selected Highlights of the Governor's Biennial Budget:

· Triples the Rainy Day Fund from beginning of governor’s term; Fund will reach $1 billion by 2016

· Allocates $183.1 million in additional, new higher education funding; Brings new administration investment in Virginia’s colleges and universities to nearly $600 million

· Provides $38.3 million in new funding for mental health priorities

· Leaves unappropriated balance of $50.9 Million in general fund to provide for greater budget flexibility and latitude for General Assembly and incoming McAuliffe Administration; Largest unappropriated balance since 1991

· Identifies $261 million in targeted savings

· Provides for another performance bonus payment of up to 3% for state employees before Christmas 2014; Bonus contingent upon satisfactory employee performance and savings generated at end of current Fiscal Year equal to twice cost of bonus

· Includes $582.6 million in increased funding in biennium for K-12 and Pre-K

· Dedicates $16.2 million to cover biennial cost of providing foster care and adoption payments. Includes 3% increase in foster care payment rates; Beginning in FY 2016, provides funds to expand foster care and adoption subsidies to age 21 for the most vulnerable youth

· Makes available $6.5 million to address study requirements that must be met to allow additional dredging at Norfolk Harbor, as well as for the deepening of the Elizabeth River channel

· Supplies additional $1.5 Million for Port of Virginia Economic and Infrastructure Development Zone Grant Fund to encourage private-sector companies to locate along transportation corridors leading to Port

· Presents additional $196.7 million to fund debt service on all capital projects previously authorized by General Assembly, as well as debt service on select new projects

· Fully funds pension reform commitment of phasing-in increases to state and teacher retirement contributions to reduce future unfunded liabilities

· Provides additional $315.3 million for the general fund share of state and teacher pension benefits representing funding at 80 percent of the full pension contribution rates, as well as funding for the 10-year scheduled payback of deferred employee retirement contributions from fiscal years 2011 and 2012.

· Dedicates $55.3 million To Support Public Safety Efforts; Includes $22.2 million for Sheriffs, Commonwealth's Attorneys, and Circuit Court Clerk Deputies to fund new hires, reduce overcrowding in jails, fund long overdue pay increases, and support other critical operations; Also $21.3 million in additional funding to assist local law enforcement through the "599" program

· Directs $11 million to the City of Richmond for the development, creation, and enhancement of the Slavery and Freedom Heritage Site

· Continues governor’s commitment to improving Virginia’s prisoner re-entry process with $2.8 million in new funding to help prisoners successfully rejoin society; additionally appropriates nearly $450,000 for additional staffing to further streamline and expedite the state’s restoration of rights process

· Ensures $4 million for oyster restoration efforts; $2 million each year of the biennium. Virginia’s recent efforts to revitalize the state’s historic oyster industry have resulted in 2012 seeing the largest harvest in the Commonwealth since 1987; the oyster industry had an economic impact of $42.6 million last year

· Dedicates over $31 million from the FY2013 budget surplus to the Water Quality Improvement Fund

· Provides $7.2 million for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program to provide access to life-saving medications for the treatment of HIV and related illnesses for low-income clients

· Directs $8 million over the biennium to the Virginia Housing Trust Fund, and $500,000 in additional revenue each year to Virginia’s rapid re-housing program, all designed to continue the administration’s homelessness prevention and reduction efforts. Over the last four years, overall homelessness in Virginia has declined by 16%

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