Two ads from Crossroads GPS paint incomplete and misleading pictures of Tim Kaine’s support for cutting education and defense spending.
- One ad says that “when Tim Kaine proposed harsh funding cuts for Virginia schools, one Democrat called it ‘a kick in the teeth.’ ” It’s true that the top official in one wealthy county did that — when the then-Virginia governor proposed a one-year delay to a scheduled change that would have prevented cuts for two-thirds of the state’s poorest school districts.
- Another ad says that Kaine “supported a Washington budget deal that would devastate America’s defense and Virginia jobs.” Kaine did express support for a budget control measure enacted to avert a default by the federal government. But so did the state’s Republican governor and several of its Republican representatives in Congress.
The ad called “Teeth” says that “when Tim Kaine proposed harsh funding cuts for Virginia schools, one Democrat called it ‘a kick in the teeth.’ ” Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova did say that, but the ad doesn’t explain what the “kick in the teeth” phrase references.
Virginia uses a composite index to determine a school division’s ability to pay education costs, and allocates state funds accordingly. The formula factors in a locality’s true value of property, its adjusted gross income and its taxable retail sales. The index is calibrated to ensure an overall statewide local share of 45 percent and an overall state share of 55 percent.
The goal is to provide wealthier districts, such as those in the northern part of the state, with less state funding, and provide more money to poorer school districts. In practice, some wealthy districts receive less than 25 percent of their funding from the state, while the poorest receive up to 80 percent.
While the formula has always been controversial, it resurfaced as a political issue at the end of 2009, when the composite index was being recalculated, as it is every two years.
Northern Virginia, before 2007, had been growing significantly faster than the rest of the state in terms of wealth. As a result, school districts in that region were doing less favorably under the education funding formula. After the housing crash, however, home prices in the north began sliding much faster than prices in other parts of the state, a change that was expected to be reflected in the readjustment of the composite index at the end of 2009.
The result of such a shift would have been that those wealthier school districts would have received more money from the state, while more than 90 of Virginia’s 136 school districts would have had to shoulder a greater percentage of their education budgets, increasing statewide spending by an additional $30 million. So, Kaine proposed delaying the scheduled update to the formula, causing some legislators to cry foul, including Bulova of Fairfax.
But Kaine was not proposing new cuts to education; he proposed that the Legislature delay a planned funding redistribution that, if implemented, would have resulted in cuts for two-thirds of the state’s poorest school districts. And, in any event, the proposed delay was never adopted, as the new Republican governor, Robert McDonnell, came out in opposition to it.
In a second ad, Crossroads attacks Kaine for supporting the Budget Control Act of 2011, which was passed and signed into law last summer to avert a default by the federal government.
“Tim Kaine supported a Washington budget deal that would devastate America’s defense and Virginia jobs,” the ad’s narrator says.
Kaine did express support for the budget deal, saying it was “the right thing to do.” It included a mechanism, known as sequestration, where $1 trillion in automatic cuts in defense and non-defense discretionary spending would be triggered if lawmakers failed to agree on ways to cut the deficit. A study conducted for the Aerospace Industries Association estimated that the scheduled $500 billion in defense cuts over the next 10 years could result in the loss of more than 200,000 Virginia jobs.
However, sequestration was only to occur if Congress failed to enact a deficit reduction plan. And Kaine, who has never served as a member of Congress, wasn’t a member of the “supercommittee” that failed to agree on a proposal to cut the deficit.
While Kaine supported the budget deal, he was hardly alone. The bill received 269 votes in the House of Representatives (including votes from six Virginia Republicans) and 74 votes in the Senate. The state’s Republican governor also supported the budget deal at the time.
– Nathan Emmons