(Reuters) - Virginia's governor said Monday he wants to rebuild the state's rainy day and
pension funds while remaining vigilant about possible local
economic effects from perpetual budget wars at the federal
In unveiling his biennium budget proposal, Governor Bob
McDonnell also swore off raising taxes.
The fiscal 2013-2014 budget would appropriate $84.9 billion
for state government spending, with general fund revenues
covering only 41 percent of that amount. By the end of fiscal
2014, the budget will have a balance of $31.4 million, McDonnell
said in an address to the state legislature.
"This reflects the need for a greater cushion given our
economic uncertainty," he said. "Virginia must have the
liquidity and flexibility necessary to navigate through this
tumultuous period, and to retain our critically important Aaa
Virginia's fiscal years begin each July.
This summer, Moody's Investors Services gave a negative
outlook to Virginia's credit strength because the state's
nearness to the nation's capital indirectly links its economy to
the federal budget. The automatic spending cuts that the U.S.
government will have to enact by 2014 include military spending,
and Virginia is home to many Navy installations.
McDonnell proposed setting aside $50 million "to mitigate a
variety of negative impacts on Virginia related to likely future
federal actions" and to pump up the state's budget reserves to
more than $600 million by the end of fiscal 2014.
He expects revenues to grow 3.4 percent in fiscal 2013 and
4.5 percent in fiscal 2014. He noted that state spending is
currently as low as it was in fiscal 2007.
During the recent recession, Virginia cut its contributions
to employees' pensions. The Virginia Retirement System is at
risk of having a little more than 60 percent of the money needed
to cover state and local retirement benefits.
"Here's the simple truth: our state retirement system is
underfunded, and this situation threatens the system's long-term
solvency," McDonnell said. "We must fund VRS at substantially
higher levels so that we can guarantee all benefits will be
there for our hard-working teachers, police officers and other
state and local employees."
He proposed making the biggest contribution to the system in
state history - $2.21 billion - while assuming an 8 percent rate
of return on the pension funds' investments. Local governments,
which also pitch in to teachers' pensions, would not have to
come up with a matching amount.
State employees would also be eligible for a 3 percent bonus
next year, but only if they receive high marks on performance
evaluations and there is enough discretionary money available to
at least meet twice the cost of the bonuses.
Last March, the governor and legislature began a tense
stand-off on how best to bring the retirement system back to
"We must act now and during the session we must pass other
pension system reforms to permanently fix this system," he said
McDonnell is also calling for putting more sales tax revenue
toward infrastructure and for restoring $25 million in aid to
cities and counties over the two years.
While the Republican governor stood strong on not raising
taxes, he did suggest a $10 million fee increase to fund its
motor vehicle department.
(Reporting By Lisa Lambert; Editing by Dan Grebler)
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