State makes $137.2 million mistake in school financing

It seems there has been $137.2 million in mistakes in the calculation of the school financing in the state’s budget proposal prepared by former governor Mark Warner’s staff. The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission cited two errors made by the Department of Taxation:

  • A “careless error” in which staff added, rather than subtracted, estimates on lost revenue from a reduction in the sales tax on groceries.
  • A failure to adjust revenue estimates after Warner and the legislature decided to speed up a cut in the “food tax.”

The first error was known by the finance secretary in December but Governor Tim Kaine didn’t find out about it until July. Now the governor is asking the General Assembly to approve $60 million in additional aid to schools.

Forget for a second the mistakes. Why, once they were known, weren’t they corrected? From the article:

[Former secretary of finance John Bennett] said “the budget process provided no avenue at that time to correct the error” because the out going governor cannot formally file amendments.

OK, so this needs to be changed. Who better to file an amendment than the people who know the budget best?

Let me make a suggestion: change the budgeting cycle. Instead of the biennial budget coinciding with the start of a new administration, move it one year in. That way, the new governor would have time to assess all of what is going on and truly come up with his own budget, as opposed to simply trying to modify one presented by his predecessor. And the General Assembly would have no excuse for not passing it on time.

5 thoughts on “State makes $137.2 million mistake in school financing

  1. Vivian, this is something Sen. Cuccinelli has championed for several years! It makes some sense for the reasons you have laid out. Also, it would put adopting the budget into an election year, and I am guessing we would have no more budget standoffs if THAT occurred!

    But it does delay the period of accountability for any governor. I think there is something healthy about having to live under the budget you proposed rather than pushing off the problems to your successor. (A former governor–no names, of course, but his initials are “just before Mark Warner”) did that and left the state in a major mess.

    Under this proposal, a new governor would serve one-and-a-half years under the predecessor’s budget. Maybe that’s OK. Let’s hear what others think.

  2. Kris – I thought about the 18 months that a governor would have to live with the predecessor’s budget, which creates some problems. Away to solve that would be to let the governor serve two terms.

    Budgting in an election year? Heck yeah!

  3. Whatever happened to accountability? Can’t the Secretary of Finance count, or at least hire people who CAN??? This isn’t an amount that should not be allowed to be passed off as a “careless error”… Professional accountants shouldn’t be making these kind of mistakes. This is BS! Or has the Justice Department also decided that it is discriminatory to require accountants to know when to add or subtract? Gee! I learned how to balance my check book over 40 years ago.

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