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Restaurants, park visitors, alcohol drinkers could pay more to close Virginia budget gap

Posted at 11:34 AM, Dec 17, 2014
and last updated 2014-12-17 13:20:01-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe proposed $9 million in new and increased fees to help close Virginia's projected budget gap. The governor made the announcement Wednesday before the Joint Money Committees at the state capitol.

"I am proposing an increase in restaurant inspection fees to generate $3.8 million in revenues to the state and $3.1 million in revenues to local governments," the governor announced. "Even with this boost, these fees will cover only a third of our costs for making sure restaurants are clean and safe."

Other fee increases will take place at Virginia ABC stores, Virginia State Parks, gas stations and child protective services.

Several adjustments in the finances for Alcoholic Beverage Control stores will cover $2.5 million of the first year shortfall and $2 million in the second year. These dollars will be achieved through increases in the case handling fee, the price of mini-bottles and the rounding up of product prices.

My budget plan will generate $870,000 from state park services, but I made sure that Virginia residents will not be affected by this action. Other fee increases you will see in my plan include $350,000 generated from biosolid applications, $500,000 for inspection of weights and measures such as gasoline pumps, and $225,000 from child protective services registrations.

The governor said his proposed budget cuts will not impact Virginia schools.

"I am proud to announce that my budget recommendations contain no cuts or program reductions for elementary and secondary education and no additional cuts to higher education in Virginia," Governor McAuliffe said. "Education is too important. So I am targeting much-needed dollars to help schools facing the most daunting challenges, so that a child’s future is not determined by his or her zip code. It’s time to stop kicking the can down the road and start taking action."

To that end, the governor offered up the following ideas:

  • $713,000 to train principals in underperforming schools
  • $537,000 to enhance school breakfast programs

"I am not forgetting about our teachers. I am taking proceeds from the sale of unclaimed stocks and bonds turned over to the state and significantly reducing the unfunded liability of our teacher retirement fund," he added. "I am committing $150 million to protect teachers and to reduce liabilities on local government balance sheets. This action will save money through reduced future retirement payments for the state as well as localities."

During his address, the governor touted the number of jobs he has helped create in the Commonwealth.

"To date, my administration has made 239 jobs announcements that will bring in more than $5.1 billion in capital investment. That’s double the amount generated by any previous Governor during his first 11 months in office," he said.

The governor said the addition jobs have not been enough offset previous job losses.

"Virginia stands at an economic crossroads. We are still creating new jobs, but they can’t compensate for the loss of high-paying federal government-related jobs over the past three years, especially in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads," he said. "A direct result of the deep cuts in federal spending, Virginia’s general fund revenue collections remain abnormally sluggish."

Click here to read more about the governor's budget proposals.

"We appreciate the Governor’s work in crafting his proposed amendments and look forward to continuing to work with him wherever possible. There are areas where we agree and obviously areas where we disagree with his proposed amendments. The Governor’s proposal is the first step in this process," Virgina House Republican leadership wrote in a statement. "We are disheartened by the Governor’s decision to include Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion in the budget. It is counterproductive for him to return to the same strategy that nearly resulted in a state government shutdown last year. The House of Delegates has overwhelmingly rejected Medicaid expansion three times and it would be irresponsible to try and again use the budget as leverage on this issue. We hope this is not the Governor’s intent."

This is a developing story.