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Virginia Democrats: Budget Surplus Not All McDonnell Says It Is

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Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell is touting the fourth straight year of budget surpluses in the commonwealth.
(AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell is touting the fourth straight year of budget surpluses in the commonwealth.

The announcement from Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell that the state ended its last fiscal year with a surplus of nearly $585 million was not well received in certain circles. Democrats and economists are saying McDonnell should not claim credit for low unemployment or another budget surplus.

Under his leadership, the governor says Virginia has created more than 172,000 new jobs and the unemployment rate is just 5.5 percent — the lowest in the Southeast.

University of Virginia economist Terry Rephan says Virginia does better than other states when it comes to employment, regardless of who is governor.

"We have a relatively small manufacturing base, a little over half of the national average, so we're less susceptible to these cyclical fluctuations than a lot of other manufacturing-dependant states are," Rephan says.

And David Toscano (D-Charlottesville), the House of Delegates Minority Leader, says we should thank Washington for strong employment in the Commonwealth.

"The unemployment rate is a function of the improving national economy and because we are the beneficiaries in Virginia of so much federal spending," Toscano says.

He dismisses the governor's boast that Virginia has recorded a budget surplus in each of the last four years.

"These budget surpluses are generated by and large by underestimating the amount of revenue we're going to take in in a single year," he says.

And, Toscano says, the excess cash reflects spending too little for public education. Virginia ranks 38th in per pupil funding from the state. Critics also point to relatively low spending on health care for the poor, clean up of the Chesapeake Bay and policing of industry in Virginia.

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