Just in case you thought the budget standoff in Richmond was all about committee assignments, Sen. A. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico) has issued a statement saying otherwise.
“This budget leaves gaping holes in the area of public education, transportation and the needs of Virginia families,” McEachin’s statement says. “Dollars for public education are below 2007 levels and the budget allows for 5 students more per classroom than SOQ [Standards of Quality] levels. Moreover, for the first time ever we are funding private schools with public money. We are taking monies out of our struggling public school system, the system that serves the vast majority of Virginia children and prepares them for the 21st century economy, and giving those dollars to wealthy private academies.”
McEachin was referring to a new state tax credit to be offered to individuals and companies that donate private-school tuition for poor and middle-class students. Budget plans voted down by the Senate included $10 million a year for the credit, which Democrats warn will open the door to school vouchers and undermine public schools.
“We still await a longterm sustainable solution to the transportation crisis, not band-aid patches that simply steal funds from other critical needs, McEachin said. “We need to not rely on tolls which hit low income and working people the hardest and are nothing more than a regressive tax by another name. Finally, this budget throws 4,500 seniors out of nursing homes, reduces respite hours for caregivers and reduces salaries for first responders and teachers.”
Senate Democrats have killed both the House and Senate budget plans, partly in a bid to get more power in the upper chamber, which is evenly split between the two parties but controlled by Republicans thanks to Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R)’s tie-breaking votes.
Republicans have portrayed the Democrats’ actions as a pure power play. McEachin’s response was an effort to show that his party has substantive objections to the $85 billion plan.