In Speech at RU, Finance Secretary Brown Explains State Budget Challenges
The unique nature of Virginia's budget process and the roles of the governor and the General Assembly were central topics Thursday for state Secretary of Finance Richard D. Brown, speaking on the campus of Radford University.
"Public sentiment for no tax increases certainly plays a big role," said Brown, who is responsible for all financial matters of the Commonwealth and oversees the departments of Planning and Budget, Accounts, Taxation, and the state Treasury.
As a guest of the campus chapter of the Financial Management Association International, Brown addressed more than 100 students, faculty and staff members in the auditorium of the Hurlburt Student Center. His visit came as the Commonwealth works to finalize its 2012-14 biennium budget.
Brown, who has served with 11 Virginia governors, emphasized that "events of the day" inevitably influence governors' priorities after their inauguration. He discussed how the recent recession, the so-called white-collar recession of the 1990s and even events such as the seven-inmate prison escape in the 1980s profoundly changed governors' agendas during their terms. Noting that current Governor Bob McDonnell has focused on the state's pension fund liability, Brown lauded the state's accomplishments in that area.
Brown contrasted discretionary and constitutionally mandated funding as he discussed the Commonwealth's ongoing fiscal planning for higher education. Among the constitutionally mandated drivers of the state's budget, he explained, are K-12 education, mental disabilities, corrections and Medicaid.
"With these big, big items, it is important to squeeze every dollar out and make it go for various activities," he said. "Colleges are a good thing, going to college is a good thing, but higher education is a discretionary expense."
Brown compared current proposals for General Fund spending on higher education from the governor, the House and the Senate. The governor's original budget bill includes $200 million in proposed higher education funding, Brown said, compared with the House proposal of $182.4 million and the Senate's $193.8 million. The next step comes in April, he said, when the General Assembly reconvenes to continue budget negotiations.