McDonnell proposes adding to Va. budget to attract commerce

Gov. Robert F. McDonnell is focusing on economic development.
Gov. Robert F. McDonnell is focusing on economic development. (Bob Brown/associated Press)
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By Anita Kumar and Rosalind S. Helderman
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, April 15, 2010

RICHMOND -- Gov. Robert F. McDonnell on Wednesday recommended adding tens of millions of dollars to the state budget to lure companies to Virginia while restricting funding for certain types of abortions and slashing state aid to public broadcasting.

McDonnell (R) also proposed increasing fines for speeding by $1 for each mile over the speed limit, which could bring in an estimated $7.2 million over two years.

Many of McDonnell's new spending proposals are for economic development -- including a total of nearly $15 million for two companies, SRI and Bank of America, that previously announced they would relocate to the state, for potential new producers of biofuels, and for a fund he can use to help attract companies to Virginia.

"Smart states are taking proactive steps today to encourage economic growth tomorrow, and Virginia will lead the way," he said. "We need more good paying jobs in every part of Virginia."

McDonnell, who has made economic development his top priority, is trying to persuade Los Angeles-based Northrop Grumman to move its corporate headquarters to Northern Virginia.

In total, the governor proposed 96 amendments to the two-year, $82 billion budget that the General Assembly adopted last month. His amendments include $42.1 million in new spending, offset by $51 million in new cuts or increased revenue proposals.

Senate Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) called the number of McDonnell's budget amendments "pretty unusual."

"I've never seen anything happen remotely like this," he said. "A whole lot of them might be rejected."

In addition to recommending budget changes, McDonnell also proposed amendments to 122 bills, all of which the legislature will consider when it returns to the Capitol Wednesday for a one-day session. McDonnell accepted a bill calling for a new pro-choice license plate, but amended the language to ensure proceeds do not pay for abortions. He signed 749 bills, including one that will allow holders of concealed weapons permits to carry guns in restaurants that serve alcohol provided they do not drink. McDonnell did not veto any bills.

After being lobbied by the Family Foundation of Virginia and other conservative groups, McDonnell, a Catholic who opposes abortion, proposed withholding state money for abortions, including cases in which the health of the mother is at risk or the child might be born with a deformity. Under the proposal, money could be spent on abortions in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is at risk.

The change would put Virginia in line with federal standards set by the so-called Hyde Amendment.

"His amendment concerning elective abortion is entirely reasonable, considering that people in overwhelming numbers do not support taxpayer-funded abortion," said Victoria Cobb, president of the Family Foundation.

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