ALEXANDRIA — Gov. Bob McDonnell was the big spender this week, doling out state employee bonuses like an August Santa Claus, Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority may be a permanent resident in the doghouse and you will find Waldo quicker than a charter school in Virginia.
This is the week in review.
McDonnell touted a $450 million budget surplus this week and pledged to do what any responsible executive would, spend it.
The governor promised 3 percent bonuses to state employees, costing $77 million, but the problem is Virginia’s $36 billion in debt, according to the Commonwealth’s Debt Capacity Advisory Committee.
Meanwhile, McDonnell, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Washington, D.C., Mayor Vincent Gray wrote a letter to the MWAA this week, demanding reform of its much-maligned policies.
And while the authority may be in the running for most unpopular government agency, its ability to borrow money remains stable. Analysts at credit rating agencies Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s have MWAA bonds still ranked at investment grade, while they await the finance plan for the $2.7 billion Phase 2 of the Silver Line Metro project.
While touting charter schools as an important part of the commonwealth’s educational mission, Virginia only has four schools, serving 354 students.
Part of the problem, analysts say, is McDonnell-backed legislation that requires charter schools to file proposals to the state Board of Education before applying to the local school board.
“It’s like letting McDonald’s decide whether a Wendy’s can open next door,” said RiShawn Biddle, an education analyst who writes at the “Dropout Nation” blog.
Tired of hearing about Northern Virginia-centered issues on the campaign trail, southern Virginians are clamoring to draw interest to the region’s problems this election season.
For example, while the state’s unemployment rate is 5.7 percent, many counties in southern Virginia have seen joblessness reach heights of up to 10 percent.
“I think, overall, people still are frustrated about it, because they do see … low unemployment for the whole state, but they look around at their own neighbors and see that’s not the case in their areas,” said Pittsylvania County Republican Committee Chairman Chris Carter.
While trying to emphasize the impact of the economic downturn, southern Virginians were interrupted by loud political out-crying over how to build a $6 billion train.
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