- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Virginia Gov.-elect Robert F. McDonnell on Monday proposed reforming the state’s budget process so that incoming governors will not be saddled with budgets proposed by their immediate predecessors.

“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,” said Mr. McDonnell, a Republican. “Thus, one out of every two budgets submitted requires no subsequent accountability or management from the governor who proposed it.”

Mr. McDonnell made his proposal less than two weeks after outgoing Gov. Tim Kaine issued his biennial budget, which included raising the state’s income-tax rate by one percentage point and ending the car tax. Mr. McDonnell has said he will oppose any measure that would raise taxes.

The incoming governor said the current process requires a new governor to potentially submit sweeping changes to a budget just days after taking office, with limited preparation and input.

“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,” Mr. McDonnell said. “It needs to be reformed.”

Mr. McDonnell is proposing moving the budget-development process to odd-numbered years from the current even-numbered year arrangement so that an incoming governor would only make necessary changes to the second year of his predecessor’s budget and then would be in office for the drafting of two full budgets of his or her own.

Former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder recommended the change when he headed the state’s Commission on Government Efficiency and Effectiveness during the administration of Gov. Mark Warner, who preceded Mr. Kaine. During the state’s gubernatorial campaign, Mr. McDonnell announced his support in principle for such a change.

All that is necessary to enact the reform is a vote in the General Assembly.

Mr. Kaine has said he understands the desire to change the schedule of the state’s budgeting process, agreeing that it is better to have the governor who drafts the budget overseeing its execution.

When asked this month if his budget would help inspire the political will to change the process, Mr. Kaine told reporters during a conference call on Dec. 18 that he thinks the process can be improved.

“I’ve long believed that we start the two-year budget in the wrong year,” Mr. Kaine said. “I think it would be better for the budget cycle to be shifted a year so the incoming governor basically writes a budget at the end of year one rather than the outgoing governor writing the budget for the first two years.”

Eric J. Finkbeiner, Mr. McDonnell’s policy director, said the governor-elect “very much wants to address right away to move the budget cycle so we don’t have that situation going forward.”

Thus far, the Republican’s team has only received positive feedback on the idea of changing the budget, Mr. Finkbeiner said.

“A lot of people have acknowledged that would be a better way of doing things,” he said.

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