4BETTER OR WORSE- The week in review

Most gaping maw of a budget deficit (state level): Governor Tim Kaine projects the state will come up nearly $3 billion short for the 2009 fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2010.

Worst news for UVA: Kaine's latest cuts hack another $12.4 million out of the university's state funding, bringing the total cuts to $23 million– 15 percent of the $160 million UVA expected to receive.

Worst news for state employees: At least 2,600 of them are looking at layoffs and the ones who keep their jobs won't be seeing a raise until at least 2010. 

Boldest efforts to staunch the fiscal bleeding: Kaine proposes releasing non-violent offenders 90 days early and increasing the cigarette tax from 30 cents to 60 cents a pack. 

Best tobacco ally: Attorney General Bob McDonnell, who's running for governor in 2009, argues against raising a tax during a recession, and contends in a statement, "Another huge increase in the cigarette tax would potentially threaten a Virginia industry at a perilous time, while increasing the tax burden on many Virginia citizens and small businesses when they can least afford it."

Worst local budget news: Albemarle teachers join the list of those who can forget about a raise. Superintendent Pam Moran proposes a budget that's $2.2 million less than last year as the county grapples with its own gaping maw of a $7.2 million deficit. And city schools learn their state funding will shrink by $1.88 million.

Sharpest contrast: Charlottesville City Council ponders what to do with an extra $5.7 million at a December 15 meeting. The Daily Progress reports a conflict over a $2.1 million 2008 surplus and $3.6 million in unspent funds, with staff wanting to save the surplus or give it back to departments, and suggesting council has discretion only over reserves. Councilor Satyendra Huja is quoted as saying, "If that's our only purpose, we're wasting our time." Mayor Dave Norris says council is in charge of the entire city budget.

Best numbers for Tom Perriello: His 745-vote lead over 5th District incumbent Virgil Goode shrinks to 727 during a district-wide recount, and a three-judge panel December 17 proclaims Perriello officially the winner of the U.S. House of Representatives seat held by Goode for six terms.  

Latest ballots: The judges rule against counting 70 military ballots that arrived after the 7pm Election Day deadline.            

Grimmest accidents: Maurice Jean Clos Versailles, 64, is identified as the victim of the December 11 explosion and car fire on Gordonsville Road, and investigators say the cylinder of liquid petroleum gas he carried was the cause. Jonathan Michael Browne, 27, had been missing for two weeks when his pickup truck was discovered upside down in a pond December 15 in Orange County. Police believe his truck slipped off a gravel road, rolled, and came to rest upside down in the pond. 

Longest vandalization rapsheet: Albemarle police arrest four suspects for damaging three dozen vehicles December 8-9 in northern Albemarle, as well as for the $5,000 or so vandalization of the Forest Lakes North clubhouse November 19. Christopher Ronald Herring, 20, is charged with one count of felony vandalism and three counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor in the clubhouse incident, WINA reports.

Biggest cockfighting raid: Loudoun County authorities seize 500 chickens from two farms December 14 and 15, the Washington Post reports.

Eleventh most corrupt state: Virginia's 332 officials convicted of crimes since 1998 edges the Commonwealth toward the top 10 of corruption, according to a New York Times ranking.