New Governors Get Into Budget-Cutting Act

By: - February 18, 2010 12:00 am

Republican governors Chris Christie of New Jersey and Bob McDonnell of Virginia swept into power last November on promises of leaner, more efficient state government. Now they’re trying to put their words into action, pitching budget plans that slash hundreds of millions of dollars from schools, health care and other fundamental state services.

Christie last week declared a fiscal “state of emergency,” calling New Jersey on the “edge of bankruptcy.” The move allowed him to seize new powers to independently freeze huge amounts of state aid to K-12 schools, higher education and health care providers, The (Newark) Star-Ledger reported .

This week, Christie backed off his threat to independently freeze the money, instead asking for lawmakers’ help to close a $2.2 billion budget shortfall. But he asked schools to brace for budget cuts of 15 percent, or $475 million, among other deep cuts that could prove very unpopular in the Democratic-controlled Legislature, The Record of Bergen County reported .

In Virginia, McDonnell has announced plans to cut $2.3 billion from the state budget, largely by slashing school funding by $730 million and health care funding by $316 million, The Free-Lance Star of Fredericksburg reported. The plan also would close five state parks and, as the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported , furlough state workers for 10 days to save $181 million.

McDonnell’s budget plan differs sharply from the one former Gov. Tim Kaine, a Democrat, presented just before his departure in January: Kaine would have raised taxes to avoid deep cuts. Virginia Republicans have refused to go along with tax increases this year, but McDonnell’s cuts still must clear the Democratic-held state Senate.

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