COLUMN — A new way to formulate the state budget
Published 5:30 pm Thursday, December 31, 2020
Every year, the most important thing that the governor of Virginia does is produce a budget or a revised budget. Yet, way too frequently, a governor will offer the dessert first with new spending rather than starting with the basic meal. Because there is never enough money to provide for the wants of various interest groups, that basic meal often is reduced below the proper level.
The budgeting process begins each summer when the governor’s office requests from each department what their needs and wants are going to be for the new year. The next step has the governor determine what the state’s revenue is predicted to be based on experts. This is followed by the governor reducing department suggestions from each department, because “wants” always exceed revenue, before he presents it to the public and the General Assembly.
A Better Way
If I were governor, I would add another step. After everyone provides their expectations, I would take a long walk and marvel at the wonders of the universe. This would clear my head from the desires of those who have a vested interest in a big state budget. During that walk, I would reflect on what is really important for the betterment of Virginia and her citizens. That would determine what my spending priorities ought to be.
First would be a commitment to grow the economy in order to have more people working at well-paying jobs. This would include skills training so that our citizens could advance in supporting their families. Doing this would free up dollars now being spent on supporting those who are not keeping up because of poor training and holding jobs with limited futures.
I would investigate each department to determine if the public is being served as they should be. If citizens are going to pay for service, we should provide that service professionally, timely and with a smile. If our state employees are providing that quality of service, we should reward them fairly. Currently, our good state employees and good educators are considered last, and then only if there is money left after governors have given out goodies to make some interest groups happy.
Gov. Ralph Northam’s new budget is a perfect case in point. He has promised teachers a raise but only if the economy gets a little better this month. However, consider that in contrast to $25 million that he has promised to reinvent Monument Avenue in Richmond. Going through his proposed budget, one can find many more examples.
The Grinch That Tried to Steal Christmas
Throughout the year 2020, we were faced with challenges that tested our faith. It started with a state government that was turned upside down by a northern Virginia mentality that proceeded to trash much of what those of us in this region consider important.
Things such as fair and honestly conducted elections, the willful destruction of personal and private property and law enforcement focused on protecting our families. This is in addition to a pandemic from China that has stayed on the front page since March. Focused on the fear of COVID-19, small businesses were driven to close, destroying the finances and hopes of many. Likewise, the dramatic increases in drug addiction and suicide have been ignored.
Elections were also the focus for way too much of the year, with limited honest discussion of where the candidates wanted to lead the nation. Instead, it turned into a referendum of personality traits. Was President Trump “too in your face” or was Vice President Biden “too out of it?”
The end result is that more votes were counted than in any other election. Such things as “harvesting” votes, which has always been illegal in the past, were considered acceptable this year, leaving a cloud over this election and possibly every election until we get serious about ballot security once again.
Despite all that, those who have true faith have been able to look back at all those negatives and look forward with prayer and understand that God is in control. He has instilled within our hearts the ability to be optimistic and provide for those in need of help. In community after community, I have seen acts of compassion for those in need. Keep faith and all will be well.
Wishing all a safe and Happy New Year.
Frank Ruff Jr. represents Charlotte in the state Senate. His email address is Sen.Ruff@verizon.net.