- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 6, 2006

Fairfax County does not have enough money to shore up a popular child day care program for low-income families, after the House of Delegates last week killed Gov. Timothy M. Kaine’s plan to use some state savings to offset a cut in federal funding.

“It’s millions of dollars we don’t have,” said Gerald E. Connolly, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. “I don’t know that there is anything we can do.”

Mr. Connolly, a Democrat, said the reduction in federal funds could affect as many as 1,900 children.

Each month, the county has provided non-mandated subsidized child care services for 6,500 children of families that earn between $20,000 to $30,000 a year. The goal is to help families cover the $12,000 a year in average child care costs, Mr. Connolly said.

Under the program, qualified families pay a percentage of their child care costs based on their income. The rest has been paid with federal funds funneled through the state, and matching local funds.

“Without subsidized assistance, individuals may be forced to stop working, pay an extraordinary portion of their income for child care, or use substandard child care supervision,” Mr. Connolly wrote in a June 29 letter to Mr. Kaine.

Now Virginia is redirecting those federal funds toward mandated social programs, and Fairfax County, which adopted a new budget May 1, cannot cover the additional cost, Mr. Connolly said.

Fairfax County officials asked Mr. Kaine to use his executive power to bridge the funding gap. Kevin Hall, the governor’s spokesman, said the administration is exploring its options, but “frankly, they’re limited.”

Last month, Mr. Kaine, a Democrat, suggested a budget amendment that would have helped cover the shift in federal funding with $6 million in savings from the state budget that expired June 30.

But on the final day of the legislative session, Delegate David B. Albo, Fairfax County Republican, suggested lumping 16 of the governor’s proposed amendments into one vote, including the $6 million — about $5 million for Fairfax County — for subsidized child care programs, and the amendments were defeated 51-36.

“I found it shocking that this one was one of the items,” said Delegate Vivian E. Watts, Fairfax County Democrat.

Mr. Albo said the House Republican Caucus found it “very strange” that after fighting over new funding for transportation for more than 150 days, Mr. Kaine could find $29 million to spend on other services.

Mr. Kaine said the budget delay allowed his administration to have current numbers on unspent balances and an almost “real time” projection of lottery proceeds.

Mr. Albo said the House Republican Caucus still thought it was important to set aside budget savings for the special session on transportation this fall, rather than go along with the governor’s plan to, among other things, subsidize child care.

“I had to decide, do I want money for roads or do I want money for other stuff? I chose roads,” Mr. Albo said.

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