Governor-Elect Bob McDonnell Calls for Major Reform in Budget Development

After four years of overly optimistic budget projections by outgoing Governor Tim Kaine’s administration, Governor-elect Bob McDonnell has called for major reforms in Virginia’s budget development process. There is no doubt that more needs to be done in streamlining the process when it comes to developing a statewide budget.

McDonnell said, in a press statement:

“On Friday, December 18th, Governor Tim Kaine proposed his biennial budget for Fiscal Years 2011 and 2012. The Governor made his proposal with only 28 days left in his single four-year term, carrying out his obligation as determined by our current budgetary calendar. Unfortunately, the current budget development process leads to a situation, repeated every four years, in which the consideration, debate and adoption of one governor’s proposed budget takes place during the Administration of his successor. Thus, one out of every two budgets submitted requires no subsequent accountability or management from the governor who proposed it. The current system also requires a new governor to potentially submit sweeping changes to a budget just days after taking office with limited preparation and input. A sitting governor usually takes many months to analyze and develop a comprehensive state budget. It is likewise burdensome on the General Assembly to have to review and consider the potentially divergent budget recommendations of two governors in such a short period of time.

Regardless of who is governor, or the political parties they represent, such an arrangement does not serve the public’s best interest nor does it create a fiscally prudent planning process. It needs to be reformed.

As Governor, I will propose action be taken to move the budget development process to odd-numbered years, from the current even-numbered year arrangement. Thus an incoming Governor would only make necessary changes to the second year of his predecessor’s budget, and would then be in office for the drafting of two full budgets of his or her own, and would be held fully responsible for the implementation and oversight of those budgets. There is broad support for reform. Governor Kaine and I, as well as key General Assembly leaders, support this change. Governor L. Douglas Wilder’s Commission on Government Efficiency and Effectiveness made this same proposal during the Warner Administration. I have spoken with many business leaders and citizens who support this policy change. It is a non-partisan recommendation that will ensure a much more orderly budget process. As a candidate for Governor I recommended this change as part of the government reform package Lieutenant Governor Bolling and I jointly announced in September.

It is important, especially in tough fiscal times, to continue to look for positive reforms in all areas of government, to make it simpler and more efficient and to get results. This is one which will lead to a smoother budget process for the benefit of all involved. I look forward to working with the members of the General Assembly to adopt this reform in the near future to begin with submission of a full two-year budget in 2011.”

  • Tim J

    What a great strategy to blame the outgoing Governor for the consequences of his budget for an entire year… or two!

    I hope that Gov. Kaine doesn’t have any national political aspirations as his budget and the results can be hung around his neck for the next several years.

  • Tim J — Perhaps you are familiar with Governor Jim Gilmore and all the “nice things” that Governor Mark Warner had to say about the budget that Gilmore left him with. What was peculiar is how Warner’s numbers did not add up. Fortunately for Warner, the Washington Post is especially weak with respect to financial accounting. That paper just repeated the same story over and over again. Unfortunately for Kaine, all that McDonnell has to do is tell the truth.

  • Hung around Kaine’s neck like the Democrats did to Gilmore? Not that 2 wrongs make a right, but I’m just sayin’…..

    Personally I disagree with McDonnell’s positon here.
    1)If the change in governors was the result of voter umbrage with the current administration, why by all that is good, should the citzenry be saddled with the outgoing governor’s proposals?

    2) Almost sounds like an easy out and excuse for the incoming party not having done the research and prepared an alternative budgetary proposal.

    3)What if the last governor proposed something insane like local taxation? Wouldn’t the incoming governor want to be able to just take that off the table ASAP? Or is “HRTA McDonnell” angling for a way to accept something he wants, but be able to pretend to blame Kaine for the introduction? What was that? Kaine favors this budgetary reform as well?

    Maybe I’m wrong here and somebody can explain it to me?

    Kaine has made a lot of cuts, I give him credit for that. Not easy for a Dem. to do. Up until recent events, he was pretty decent. He was supposed to be far more liberal than Warner, yet I’d give higher marks to Kaine than Warner.

    That all being said, Tim, if this is a scheme to blame Kaine and put the stink on a Dem, then why is Kaine in favor of this?(as stated in the article)

  • Britt…I’m not sure I understand your questions. Here is the crux of the proposal by McDonnell…

    “Move the budget development process to odd-numbered years, from the current even-numbered year arrangement. Thus an incoming Governor would only make necessary changes to the second year of his predecessor’s budget, and would then be in office for the drafting of two full budgets of his or her own, and would be held fully responsible for the implementation and oversight of those budgets.”

    That doesn’t sound to me like the incoming governor and citizentry is “saddled” with anything more than a year’s worth of the outgoing governor’s budget to amend vice a full biennial budget, as it stands now.

    I think Kaine agrees with this because it’s just a good proposal.

    Regarding your second point – I think you’re being far too cynical and not practical. You’re asking new governors to amend a two-year budget, prepare their legislative package, announce their tranistion team, cabinet, and appointments, and get ready for inauguration in two months. That’s kind of steep hill, don’t you think? Especially if the budget requires a massive overhaul, as does Kaine’s.

  • JR,

    You make a strong argument for why this is a good idea.

    But McDonnell ran for Governor and I hope he understood before he ran the problems he would be facing. I am hopeful that an improving economy (keeping my fingers crossed) will make the solution less impossible.

    No new taxes! OK, then where are the cuts going to come from?

  • LD –
    I am sure the governor-elect is well aware of what the problems facing the state are and will amend Kaine’s budget accordingly to present a balanced budget with no new taxes, as he campaigned on.

    However, this is an appropriate time to bring up the change in procedure for submitting budgets too. Glad you agree with the idea.

    As for revenue? Personally, I think he should include a provision specific to raising taxes on commercial trucking.

  • JR,

    We truckers are willing to pay our fair share. It is just when those who are supposed to be pro-business start targeting our business that we object. We get it from both sides.

  • Steve Vaughan

    This is an excellent proposal. It’s been brought up before and should have been acted on already. Of course, you could also resolve it by going to annual budgeting. Given the amount of time the legislature spends amending the “rump budget” — either to keep it in balance in bad years or plunder the surpluses for the next budget in good years — this wouldn’t really require too much extra time. I supposed you’d have to go to 60 years sessions every year, but that would have a minimal impact. McDonnell’s proposal might work just as well, but it would leave the incoming governor with one year of the last guy’s budget to either live with or rewrite.

  • Steve Vaughan

    That should be 60-day sessions. 60-year sesssion would be too long. For everybody except Del. Putney anyway.

  • J.R., maybe there’s something about the budget process I misunderstand.

    ” Especially if the budget requires a massive overhaul, as does Kaine’s.”

    I agree Kaine’s budget needs work. That’s my issue. I don’t want to have to deal with even a year of it. If under McDonnell’s plan, he doesn’t have to, or can’t change a really bad budget from day 1; convenient for him or not, I’m against this. If McDonnell from day 1 can toss Kaine’s budget and use a different budget even if hurried or prepared by allied party members, I’m probably ok with it. I want to be sure an outgoing Governor can’t poison the first year of a new governor. I also don’t want a democrat putting in a new tax or new government program that a “practical” governor privately likes, but needs to pretend to fight in order to maintain fiscal conservative support.

    Steve Vaughn’s idea of an annual budget has merit. I like accountability. It prevents somebody from muddying the waters and false finger pointing. Otherwise, the opposing party structure should be putting together an alternative budget proposal should they win and use that as a starting off point.

    Am I cynical? You betcha! Our representatives trained me to be so. Accepting what someone tells you is “practical” is how the RPV got infiltrated by RINOs in the first place. Its the first step in compromising your core principles by increment.

  • Steve Vaughan

    Britt– he can’t really “poison” it, he can just make it more difficult as Kaine did to McDonnell by putting in a tax increase instead of making even deeper cuts than he made. Now McD has to make them. This doesn’t just happen when the party in power changes. Doug Wilder complained bitterly that Jerry Baliles stuck him with a bad budget. George Allen went around the state giving away a surplus to non-state agencies …Monticello, Colonial Williamsburg, etc….and only put as much money in the budget to pay for the first year of Jim Gilmore’s “car tax cut” as Gilmore it would cost on the campaign trail. Everybody, including the Allen administration and the Gilmore campaign knew it was going to cost twice that. Allen’s move, although he set him up nicely for his senate run, forced Gilmore to negotiate with Democrats in the Assembly to get his “car tax cut.”

  • Mike Barrett

    Oh for Pete’s sake, what a tempest in a teapot. If you don’t like Kaine’s budget, change it. That is what you would do whether it was the first or the second year. Stop with baloney about process and get down to implementing your proposals. This blame game stuff is getting tiring.

  • Steve Vaughan

    MB-Process is important. I’m convinced that if more attention was paid to getting the correct process in place, we’d seen better outcomes. One of the problems with the way the Republicans have run the House of Delegates is that they’ve decided what outcome they want and then set up a process to gaurantee that outcome. That’s not the way it’s supposed to work.

  • I do find that humorous,MB. A well thought out process yields accountability, transparency, and efficiency. Things that some from both parties seemed to be allergic to. Anyone that has studied Lean Manufacturing, will be focused on process.

    In order to make a wise and informed decision, you must be able to trust what you see. That means cutting through the smoke screens,spin, and at times……engaging in forensic accounting. It also involves planning and not just throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks just because somebody gets bored. I have to agree with Steve V. on some of this. I just know that the Democrats are just as guilty.

    Also, keep in mind, I see an opportunity for me to learn here.

  • Mike Barrett

    Gosh, I thought McDonnell presented himself as an experienced hand with broad knowledge of the Legislative and the executive branches. As the head of numerous past commissions dealing with the cost and efficiency of government, I thought we had elected a person with intimate knowledge of the way government works in Virginia. Who knew he had not a clue how to revise a budget presented by his predecessor? I’m surprised he did not let us know that during the campaign. I’m shocked.

  • Mr. Barrett-
    You presented yourself as a reasoned person at the transportation forum I attended. Is it because you’re now commenting on a blog that you have to act like an ass?

    Of course McDonnell understands the process and will have a solid number of budget amendments that will be prepared to be defended and debated. Do you see such a problem with making a process change that Wilder, Kaine and McDonnell all agree should be made?

    What’s your problem?

  • Mike Barrett

    No need for insult; my point is that with all the crucial issues facing this Commonwealth, including the laying off thousands of workers, cutting programs for the neediest among us, and implementing the crucial promises about funding transportation, I was surprised that such a big deal would be made about a process change. Point is, get to work on your priorities, then deal with the small stuff.

  • Small stuff like light rail?

  • No, Mr. Barrett, you decided to take an unnecessarily arrogant personal approach towards Governor-elect McDonnell when all he is trying to do is to take a positive step towards better government. You’re letting your personal ideology for transportation systems that would directly benefit your business interests cloud your judgment on what’s best for the commonwealth.

  • Mike Barrett

    Wow, you and Brian must have awfully thin skin. Actually, I agree with your comment above…”Of course McDonnell understands the process and will have a solid number of budget amendments that will be prepared to be defended and debated.” That is my point as well, so why waste time and effort on reforming the timing of the budget process when you have crucial strategic issues to deal with?

    • No, it’s not thin skin…I was just calling you out for sarcasm and misdirected fire. Frankly, we disagree and it’s as simple as that. I believe that this is exactly the right time to bring this up by Gov.-elect McDonnell. What better time to propose a change than when everyone is thinking about the process and the inauguration of a new governor? It’s timely and topical. It is certainly not a waste of time.

  • Mike, some people can actually do two things at once. We can pass a budget and talk about changing the budget cycle.

    Ya know, just like HRT can tell some people what light rail will cost and then tell other people what the real cost is.

  • J.M. Ripley

    Jim, don’t mind Mike much, he is your atypical public administration bureaucrat who has sucked on the tit of government his entrie career…he also has a hard time with details…can’t determine whether Leo Wardrup retired/resigned or was defeated in an election as he is the devil(Wardrup) and the rest of the GOP in the HOD regarding our current transportation funding woes.

  • Mike Barrett

    Thanks for those kind words. Reminds me of the time I first met John Moss. He was being paraded around the auto show at the new Pavilion in the tow of Meyera Obarndorf (yes, she was his mentor then) and she introduced me to him. John’s first words to me were, oh yeah, you’re one of those guys who eats from the public trough. Just about as intelligent as your comment, J.M. Anyway, later of course I found both he and his spouse were government employees. Of course, I happen to believe that every occupation is a worthy endeavor, whether it is public, private, or non profit, so I would not stoop to insult based on the nature of ones employment.

  • J.M. Ripley

    Jokes on you Mike, since I am a public employee as well and have a MPA degree…I just hold to a different view of the role of government (limited) than you do (evident by your posts).

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