August 28, 2006

Virginia makes good on math error

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Virginia Gov. Timothy Kaine on Monday
vowed to make good on a math error that inflated state school
aid by $137 million, but warned schools not to rely on a
similar windfall next year, according to his spokesman.

The mistake was made in December 2005 under former Gov.
Mark Warner, but not disclosed for several months.

The delay might mar Warner's shot at the Democratic
presidential nomination, political experts said.

But they noted that both Republicans and Democrats want to
protect the schools from budget cuts.

Like many states, Virginia shares its sales tax revenues
with local school districts.

The chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Vincent
Callahan, a Republican, said: "It's not costing us any
additional money," explaining that the error had boosted the
state's general fund.

Kevin Hall, a spokesman for Kaine, a Democrat, agreed that
the state should give the schools the funds they were promised.

"It was a mathematical error embedded in one of the
formulas used in the last Warner budget, which was submitted in
December," said Hall.

Virginia did not approve its new, two-year $74 billion
budget until late June, just days before the state's fiscal
year was to begin on July 1. The schools had already drafted
their budgets by then, though they run on one-year cycles.

"We've already told them: 'Don't count on this again,"'
Hall added.

The House chairman estimated the schools had stood to gain
a total of $280 million over the state's two-year budget cycle.

Separately, state legislators agreed to hold a special
session from September 27-30 to grapple with one of the biggest
problems they failed to solve this spring: closing an estimated
$610 million shortfall in the transportation fund.