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Va. governor to unveil budget proposals

By: LARRY O'DELL
December 15, 2013 Updated: December 15, 2013 at 12:16 pm
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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Gov. Bob McDonnell is preparing to present his last two-year state budget proposal to Virginia lawmakers.

The governor is scheduled to outline the spending blueprint for the General Assembly's two money committees Monday, less than a month before he hands the Executive Mansion keys to Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe.

McDonnell has announced a new budget initiative almost daily over the last week or so, but the picture won't be complete until he speaks at the annual joint meeting of the Senate Finance and House Appropriations committees. The Republican governor's proposed budget will be a starting point for those committees and his Democratic successor, who will press their own spending priorities after the General Assembly convenes Jan. 8.

Virginia passes a new biennial budget during even-numbered years, when the legislature meets for 60 days. Mid-course revisions are made during 46-day sessions held in odd-numbered years.

Unlike their federal counterparts, Virginia lawmakers do not spend more than the government collects. The Virginia Constitution requires a balanced budget.

Among the budget proposals McDonnell already has announced is $38 million in new funding for mental health initiatives. The issue is expected to receive heightened attention following the November death of a state senator's son, who attacked his father and killed himself hours after being released from emergency custody. Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath, survived the stabbing.

McDonnell referenced another tragedy — the 2007 slayings of 32 people at Virginia Tech by a mentally disturbed student who also committed suicide — in announcing the additional mental health funding.

"Over the years, including the events of April 16, 2007, Virginians have experienced tremendous heartache as a result of mental health tragedies," McDonnell said. "These experiences serve to underline the need to ensure that all individuals and families experiencing mental health crises have access to the needed services without delay."

McDonnell's proposal would increase the time a person could be held under emergency custody orders and temporary detention orders. It also would expand the availability of secure crisis intervention team assessment centers so a person can be held for evaluation and to find them a bed without tying up law enforcement. Outpatient mental health services for older teens and young adults would be expanded, and the state-run psychiatric hospitals in Williamsburg and Staunton would get additional resources.

The governor also has announced millions in additional spending for education, public safety, water quality, prisoner re-entry programs and a proposed Slavery and Freedom Heritage Site in Richmond.

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