Lynchburg Looks to End Controversial State Budget Tactic - WSET.com - ABC13

Lynchburg Looks to End Controversial State Budget Tactic

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Lynchburg, VA - Lynchburg City Council officials Tuesday night approved a resolution that will be sent to Governor McDonnell asking him to end what they call the "Local Aid to the Commonwealth" Program.

It's a budget tactic the state has used for years to close its budget gap. But city officials say the burden has fallen on their shoulders. As one city councilman described it, it's like giving a candy bar to a kid, and then asking for a big piece of that candy bar back.

But the state's number one priority is to balance the budget, and according to one state lawmaker, this approach is one that works.

In 2009, Virginia had a Democratic governor looking to balance the budget during one of the worst economic recessions in history.

"There was a need to try and figure out how to continue to have a balanced budget, which we're constitutionally required to do, and at the same time, there was no stomach for raising taxes," said Virginia State Delegate Scott Garrett. So, state legislators approved cutting funding to localities, for state-mandated programs.

Three years later, with a now Republican governor, and a three-year, $1 billion surplus, the practice continues.

Why?

"Excellent question, and honestly, I don't know. I wasn't in Richmond for those discussions," said Garrett.

For localities, it's frustrating - getting money from the state, just to give it right back again.

"At the end of the fiscal year, or near the end, the Governor was able to declare a surplus. But we certainly don't go into the budget process expecting to see that surplus," said Garrett.

"Well that's just not really very honest. It wasn't their fiscal discipline that created this surplus; it was our contribution, so that they could claim a surplus at our expense," said Lynchburg Mayor Mike Gillette.

Now some localities including Lynchburg have sent a letter, requesting McDonnell stop what they call the "local aid to the commonwealth" program.

"We have an extraordinarily tight budget, our city employees have not had raises for years, our schools have not been funded at the levels they've requested, we've not fully staffed the police department," said Gillette.

To date, Lynchburg has sent back to Richmond, nearly $2 million.

But they're hardly alone in this fight. The Virginia Municipal League has urged all 39 of its city members to send similar letters to the general assembly and Governor's office.

If you'd like more information on this local aid to the commonwealth program, you can visit http://www.vml.org/

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