The Washington Times - January 13, 2012, 05:23PM

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell plans to send down more than $68 million worth of budget amendments to his two year, $85 billion budget, the bulk of which would go toward public education initiatives, his office announced Friday.

The amendments include $47 million to help reduce class sizes in kindergarten through third grade, $8.2 million to expand early reading intervention programs, and $3 million for IT academies.


The amendments bring the total amount of new funding for public schools to nearly $500 million, though most of that amount would go toward teacher pensions.

“Our budget puts significant new funding into Virginia’s public schools,” said Mr. McDonnell, a Republican. “We are continuing to invest in our young people, and that is a crucial part of our efforts to position the Commonwealth for economic growth in the years ahead. Now, with these budget amendments, we are able to direct even more resources to public education.”

The new funds come from additional balances and savings that were found after Mr. McDonnell introduced the budget.

The news came on the same day that new figures showed that revenue declined 4.7 percent in December from the previous year.

The decline was driven by a 6.7 percent drop in individual income tax withholding payments, a 7.8 percent decline in corporate income tax payments, and a 29.9 percent decline in insurance premiums tax payments. Individual non-withholding was up 11 percent, and sales and use taxes grew 3.9 percent.

Revenue collections year-to-date are up 4.2 percent, behind the revised forecast of 4.6 percent.
Indeed, the news prompted caution from the governor.

“Virginia’s economy continues to grow and recover from the economic challenges of past years, but the rate of growth has slowed,” he said. “December’s falling revenue numbers are by no means a cause for panic, but they do call for a continuation of a conservative fiscal approach as the General Assembly considers my proposed biennial budget.”

In General Assembly news Friday, the Republican-led House of Delegates approved new Congressional district lines that largely shore up the state’s 11 incumbent Congressmen over objections from some legislators that the plan dilutes the African-American vote. The measure flew through the legislature’s lower chamber, advancing from committee to final passage in just three days.