"Correspondent of the Day" on Editorial Page
Letters To The Editor
Thursday, Sep 04, 2008 - 12:09 AM
House of Delegates Has Held Spending Down
The recent editorial, "Lead by Example," notes that then-Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine returned $16,000 in state funds to help fill a 2002 budget gap. Readers also deserve to know that the General Assembly has long been leading by example -- minimizing costs and returning tax dollars to the general fund.
In 2007, the House clerk's office, which I oversee, returned $2 million to the general fund, roughly 10 percent of its appropriated budget. This was on top of the $4.7 million that other legislative agencies put toward balancing the state budget.
In 2008, the legislative branch already has returned another $4.7 million by reducing discretionary spending. That figure represents 13 percent of the total legislative branch budget -- a significant amount considering Gov. Kaine last year reduced executive branch costs by about 5 percent.
While the other legislative body this year raised its session per diem payments, the House of Delegates kept ours 20 percent lower than the IRS-authorized amount. And it was the House that voted 17 years ago to reduce its salary to $17,640, an amount unchanged ever since.
Virginia ranks 43rd in per capita spending on its legislature, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. For the current fiscal year, the General Assembly's budget is less than one-half of 1 percent of the total general fund budget. That's a lean amount to provide the necessary checks and balances on a vast executive bureaucracy.
Virginia has a low-cost legislature by any standard. Still, the House will continue to do our part to put our state back on solid financial ground.
William J. Howell, Speaker,
Virginia House of Delegates. Fredericksburg.