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Last Saturday the Roanoke Times took Bedford County voters to task, stating in an editorial that they only had themselves to blame for the current budget crisis that Bedford County Public Schools is now in. The local daily’s reasoning: Bedford County voters opted for Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell in last year’s election.
The flawed — that’s the kindest word we could think of — thought process went something like this:
• Bedford County parents are up in arms because teachers are going to be laid off and schools might be closed;
• Bedford County voted overwhelmingly — at 77 percent — for McDonnell over Democrat Creigh Deeds for governor;
• McDonnell won’t raise taxes; and as a result
• Bedford County is going to have to raise taxes, in order to cover a $10 million school budget shortfall.
The apparent bottom line, according to the paper’s reasoning, is that Bedford County wouldn’t have been facing this crisis had a Democrat won and everyone’s taxes had been raised.
The Times, apparently, has decided to promote its own state version of the White House mantra: “It’s Bush’s (the Republican’s) fault” with a secondary theme of “we’ve never met a tax increase that we didn’t like.”
So what would this year’s budget for BCPS have looked like had McDonnell not won?
When Democrat Gov. Tim Kaine handed over the keys to the executive mansion he also handed his successor more than a $4 billion budget shortfall. Kaine tried to hide half of that with a tax hike that had no support — with Democrats or Republicans — in the House. And he also tried to appease some school districts, at the expense of others, by implementing a freeze on the local composite index that helps determine state funding of education. That, of course, was ill-advised, even though Bedford County would have benefitted this year. The $3.5 million difference would have hit the BCPS budget next year anyway and the move to set aside the long-standing tradition of how that funding is determined just wasn’t fair. And, even with Kaine’s proposals, Bedford County was still facing close to a $6 million shortfall in state funding.
What’s more, other school systems in the area were facing similar shortfalls — including the one in Roanoke. Would the Times, had Deeds won last November’s election, taken the city of Roanoke voters to task, stating that they could “only look in the mirror when they wonder who to blame.” Were those same voters, who voted in Kaine in 2005, chastised the previous two years as budgets were cut? Or would the Times dare blast Roanoke voters for voting in President Obama, who since taking office, has been in charge of double-digit unemployment rates and skyrocketing federal deficits.
The fact is Kaine is gone and he left the commonwealth with a major budget deficit to deal with. The current governor didn’t create it, but it’s now his to fix. That will mean cuts — and plenty of them — at all levels of government. For the Times to somehow place this mess on Bedford County voters is political posturing, at best.