He also wants to withhold inflation adjustments for any non-teaching expenses associated with schools, ranging from secretarial salaries to utility bills, for a savings of $109 million. And he is proposing $108 million less than what was asked for the Standards of Quality, state-mandated minimum objectives for public schools.
“There is obviously inflation, and to say there isn’t reduces funding,’’ said Robley Jones, a spokesman for the Virginia Education Association.
The budget calls for an $81 million cut to pre-kindergarten programs — a top priority of McDonnell’s predecessor, Democrat Timothy M. Kaine — but state officials said that they had merely corrected faulty enrollment projections and that there would, in fact, be more money for pre-K.
The two-year budget, which begins July 2012, will be the largest spending plan in Virginia history, growing by about $7 billion. The governor’s staff noted that the general fund — the part of the budget that the state controls — has returned to 2007 levels.
The increase in the other part of the budget is attributed to revenue growth, an expected boost in federally mandated programs such as Medicaid, and more money from fees and colleges and universities.
McDonnell proposes setting aside $50 million to offset future cuts in federal aid as he looks to send a message to the nation’s three bond-rating agencies that they should keep the state’s stellar credit rating. He also wants to double the amount in the state’s rainy day fund to $600 million.
McDonnell would continue the state’s hiring freeze and reduce the 103,000-employee state workforce by less than 250, primarily by closing the Mecklenburg Correctional Center. He also proposes spending $77 million on a 3 percent bonus for state employees, but only if the employees can come up with ideas that would save $160 million.
In the past week, McDonnell has rolled out some of his spending proposals, including putting $2.2 billion into the retirement system for state and local employees, with about $1 billion of it paid for by localities. The amount includes the first two years of repayment of $620 million borrowed from the retirement system in recent years to close a budget shortfall.
McDonnell recommended spending $200 million on colleges and universities,
pursuing his goal of creating 100,000 college degrees,
and $100 million for economic development.