Now that the General Assembly has finally passed a two-year, $85 billion state budget, politicians and interest groups have started picking through the details to celebrate what they like and decry what they don’t.
The focus in the final, frenzied days of budget negotiations last week was on the $300 million in funding that Democrats tried and failed to get included for the Metrorail to Dulles International Airport project. But there was plenty more in there for people to love and hate.
Gov. Robert F. McDonnell issued a news release Monday trumpeting the $230 million in new state funds for higher education.
With that new funding in mind, the release said, McDonnell sent a letter to Virginia college presidents and boards, asking them to keep increases in in-state tuition in line with the rate of inflation.
The Consumer Price Index for the last 12 months was up 2.7 percent, while average in-state tuition went up 9.7 percent for the 2011-2012 school year, the release said.
“I remain very concerned about the affordability of post-secondary education for the young people of Virginia,” he wrote.
While higher education came out ahead in the budget, funding for teen pregnancy prevention programs was eliminated.
“We are shocked and saddened that Virginia is taking this backwards step that will harm public health and the well-being of Virginia’s young people,” Tarina Keene, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, said in a news release.
NARAL blamed McDonnell, who did not provide money for pregnancy prevention in his proposed budget. “McDonnell Succeeds in Putting Teenagers at Risk,” read the headline on the release. (McDonnell’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.)
But McDonnell was not the only person who had a hand in that decision. The Senate restored $455,000 for pregnancy prevention in its budget plan, but House and Senate budget negotiators zeroed out that money.