Gov. Bob McDonnell provided a good example today of what Tim Pawlenty was talking about: governors have to make hard choices, balance budgets, and take responsibility for their efforts. McDonnnell today announced that after taking over a $1.8B budget shortfall, he’s not only balanced the books for this year but also run up a $220M surplus for the remainder of this fiscal year. He has also closed a $4.2B shortfall for 2011-2012. He did this all without raising taxes. His communications director, Tucker Martin, explained via email:
The Governor’s mid-session revenue reforecast targeted state spending to the proper levels. Virginia state employees also returned $28 million to state coffers through their own savings, which they were incentivized to do by the prospect of up to a 3% one-time bonus if a surplus was achieved. The governor also instituted a strict hiring freeze in state government. So the basic factors on this surplus were the governor holding the line on new spending, accurate revenue re-forecasting, state employee savings, a hiring freeze and increases in corporate and individual tax returns, which is a small, but positive, economic signal. The increases in corporate and individual withholding and non-withholding equal 75% of the surplus money. So this is a story of conservative budgeting, and not just raising taxes to get out of trouble. As a result, our economy is starting to pick up down here. We’ve added 71,500 jobs since February, third highest amount in the nation, and you can start to see that in the slight uptick in withholding.
The list of cuts in education, health and human safety, and even in public safety are substantial. But in the end, spending in 2011-2012 in Virginia will merely return to 2005-2006 levels. Is that the end of civilization as we know it? That’s what the Democrats would have had us believe when they said it was impossible to balance the budget without huge tax hikes.
McDonnell has said he’s not running for anything in 2012, and I think this is one pol who’s telling the truth. But if you want to know what a grown-up chief executive looks like, this is it.