Several of the governor's actions, required by the magnitude of the shortfall, will directly impact families, programs, core services, and state employees. Among them:
- Some 929 state jobs will be eliminated requiring 593 layoffs.
- Higher education will be hit to the tune of 13-15% reductions. For UVA that is about $19 million - which has to hit everything from buildings and grounds to instruction. It will be especially difficult for community colleges which cannot turn students away. Expect bulging classes, the elimination of some classes/programs, more snow-covered parking lots and sidewalks.
- A one-day furlough for most state employees - in short, a four-day Memorial Day weekend, with one day unpaid. The loss of a day's pay will be tough on some families, but not as tough as more layoffs that would occur absent the furlough. A little shared pain seems the better of bad options. Public safety and some other areas will be exempted.
- A reduction of $104 million in payments to the Virginia Retirement System. VRS has a reputation of being well managed, but like every other investor has been hammered by the stock market (which is thankfully rebounding). VRS is a sacred trust to state employees and while the state can't raid the funds directly, this backdoor reduction in funding will weaken the system. The Commonwealth must do, as the governor promises, readjust the contribution rates to assure the long term viability of the system.
Kudos to the governor for not taking the boning knife to K-12 education. Along with public safety, K-12 is the most vital of government services. So far, because of the efforts of Governor Kaine and federal stimulus funds, education has been largely spared. Education is the key to our future, our economy, the very fabric of our society and every effort must be made to protect public schools.
Which brings us to a crucial point - it does make a difference who is in the Executive Mansion setting priorities. Bob McDonnell says he'll pay for roads by shifting over $5 billion from education. That's BILLION. McDonnell promises to raise teacher salaries - but it is a shortsighted smoke and mirrors (shift and shaft) scheme that cuts school services such as nurses, counselors, speech pathologists, and other support personnel.
The more we see and hear of Bob McDonnell, the clearer it becomes that the man will say and promise about anything in his desperation to wield power. Talking out of both sides of his mouth... he's ultra-conservative to one audience and a reasonable moderate to another group in the very same day! A vote for Bob McDonnell is like buying a pig-in-a-poke - you never know who, or what, is the real Bob McDonnell.