WITH SPEED, DEFTNESS and perhaps a few fiscal mirrors, the two houses of Virginia's legislature appear to have produced some important dollars that weren't in the grim financial picture painted by Gov. Robb last month. If even part of what each chamber came up with in separate but simultaneous scavenger hunts proves real, there is better news for state aid to education as well for state employees, whose salaries had appeared headed for a freeze. Though the governor may wish he could have produced these numbers in the first place, the result should be welcome news for his administration as well as for his constituents.
What the legislators always know is that budgets, like those "can-you-find-a-rabbit-in-this-picture?" puzzles, always have hidden treasures--some more solid than others. For example, both the house of delegates and the state senate "found" $16.4 million that could be collected through an acceleration of estimated tax payments from corporations and individuals. That's a one-time windfall, but it's money that belongs in the treasury, so why not pull it in on time?
Other revenue additions proposed by one legislative side or another would increase tax collections by 1) putting more tax auditors to work, 2) cutting the corrections department's spending, 3) redirecting some savings on construction projects that have cost less than projected and 4) a few other minor fund transfers. These monies would be used to reduce or eliminate cuts proposed by Gov. Robb in state aid to education and to provide some increases in state employees' take-home pay.
Resolution of house-senate differences should not be all that complicated, with debate scheduled in the senate today and in the house tomorrow. As for any more caches of money, senate finance committee chairman Edward E. Willey of Richmond says, "There's a whole lot more lying around here. We could have found more if we wanted to. Maybe the governor didn't look as hard as we did."
Maybe not. But why complain if the General Assembly angel can deliver? As committee member Clive DuVal of Arlington said of Gov. Robb, "I don't consider this a defeat for him at all. How can it be a defeat when the programs he supports get more money?" On the contrary, the kind of thorough financial work now being done in Richmond is a victory for legislative responsibility.