- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Gov. Robert F. McDonnell has used a powerful executive tool to further his goal of phasing out state funding for public broadcasting.

After two efforts to get legislators to cut more funding than they would agree to, the governor moved closer to his objective Tuesday when he signed the amended 2012 budget and included one line-item veto that will result in 25 percent fewer dollars for educational programing for public radio and TV stations.

Given that the cuts make up a very small percentage of the balanced budget legislators had already approved, the governor’s veto is more symbolic of his ideology than of his budget concerns.

“In today’s free market, with hundreds of radio and television programs, government should not be subsidizing one particular group of stations,” Mr. McDonnell said.

House Minority Leader Ward L. Armstrong, a vocal opponent of the governor’s efforts to cut public broadcasting funding, said it’s Republicans’ “issue de jour.”

“I don’t know what Big Bird did to offend the governor,” the Collinsville Democrat said. “I think public broadcasting is as much a core function of government as the governor paying for a bunch of other things.”

Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple, Arlington Democrat, said she is surprised by the governor’s action.

“The funding provides educational programs for children and schools all over the commonwealth,” Mrs. Whipple said.

Mr. McDonnell has been on a mission to eliminate state funding for public broadcasting for months. In December, he proposed cutting it by half this year and slashing it completely out over the next two years.

Lawmakers agreed to much smaller cuts during the legislative session, with Republicans and Democrats negotiating a deal to trim about half a million dollars from the original $4.1 million appropriation.

Undeterred, Mr. McDonnell tried again when he amended the budget and sent it back to the General Assembly for veto session. While the House accepted his amendment 61-13, the Senate opposed it by a 27-13 vote.

In the absence of a veto-proof majority in both chambers, the governor has the final word. His line-item veto cuts another $424,000 from public broadcasting, reducing total funding to $3.1 million over 2010 and 2011.

Mr. McDonnell said lawmakers need to “get serious” about government spending.

“That means funding our core functions well and eliminating spending on programs and services that should be left to the private sector,” he said. “This is a smart, practical budgeting decision to make Virginia government smaller and more efficient and save taxpayer dollars.”

• Paige Winfield Cunningham can be reached at pcunningham@washingtontimes.com.

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