is a good reason state politicians in Richmond don't
want to honestly address Virginia's fiscal and
budget debacle. Let me ask you this question: How
much do you think it costs to run Virginian's
"Legislative Department," state budget
lingo for the General Assembly and its operations?
Let me give you a starting point: The biennium
budget passed in 1970 appropriated about $3.5
million to run the Legislative Department for that
two-year cycle, including money for the Capitol
We started a new cycle this past July 1. So, how
much to you think the Legislative Department costs
now? According to Virginia's state legislators, they
are underpaid and understaffed. So perhaps you would
guess the budgeted amount had increased 500 percent
-- to $17.5 million -- giving them a small premium
above the inflation-adjusted value of a 1970's
dollar. But that number is a pittance in today's
General Assembly. Legislators now receive more than
$4 million just in undocumented and unaccounted-for
expenses during a budget cycle.
How about a 1,000 percent increase, bringing the
total to $35 million? To put that in perspective, a
home that cost $35,000 in 1970 would cost $350,000
today if it had appreciated 1,000 percent, something
few Virginian's have been fortunate to experience.
But again, not even close.
Two thousand percent? Sorry, still way too low. The
right number? The new state budget gives the
Legislative Department $119,460,976. And this does
not include the other monies allocated for General
Assembly members hidden in document's 500 pages of
My on-line calculator says that comes out to a 3,413
percent increase. If this is the budget work of the
self-described conservative GOP General Assembly
majority, what would happen if the
"liberals" were in charge?
To be fair, the Legislative Department includes the
Capitol Police, a force that has grown to more than
100 positions and a $10 million budget. It also
includes over $19 million for the Auditor of Public
Accounts, although that agency does not seem to have
been looking at the General Assembly recently, and
$6 million in a special fund to defray certain
Medicaid and indigent care costs.
These are important state functions. But the cost of
running the General Assembly - staff salaries,
year-round committee and subcommittee meetings,
twice-a-year legislative sessions, expense accounts,
the tops-in-the-nation per diem compensation,
pensions, year-round taxpayer-subsidized health
care for part-time legislators and other perks --
now totals a mind-boggling $52,231,182.
Plus, this does not include the cost associated with
researching, drafting and printing thousands of
pieces of legislation, even though most are not
taken seriously by the General Assembly. Their
Division of Legislative Services costs taxpayers
approximately $8.8 million.
Despite a Cabinet Secretary of Technology and an
entire information technology apparatus in state
government, the Legislative Department insists on
its own Division of Legislative Automated Services
at a cost of more than $6 million per budget cycle.
The General Assembly budget contains roughly $1.35
million for the Virginia Commission on
Intergovernmental Cooperation, $1.2 million for the
Virginia Crime Commission, $850,000 for the Joint
Commission on Health Care, $325,000 for the Joint
Commission on Technology and Science, $300,000 for
the Virginia Housing Study Commission, $300,000 for
the Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory
Council, even $79,000 for the Commissioners for
Promotion of Uniformity of Legislation. Yet other
state agencies and commissions focus on many if not
most of the these areas.
Clearly, the General Assembly's spending is out of
control. And just as clearly, its $120 million
budget should be cut by at least 10 percent, which
is in line with what the politicians in Richmond say
they must cut out of many other state activities.
For that matter, the same carving knife needs to be
applied to the Offices of Governor, Lieutenant
Governor and Attorney General.
This irresponsible spending by the General Assembly,
both on themselves and their own empire-building,
has to stop, either voluntarily or by the exercise
of political muscle. Until it does, the public is
right in believing the politicians in Richmond can
not be trusted with any new state tax revenue.
December 9, 2002