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The Associated Press April 13, 2010, 10:47AM ET

Va. governor restores mine safety money to budget

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell is proposing restored state funding for mine safety inspections in Virginia a week after a West Virginia mine blast killed 29 coal miners.

McDonnell's amendment to the state's strained state budget puts back $1.5 million over the next two years for the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy for safety work.

Legislators had trimmed $750,000 each of the next two fiscal years in unexplained "executive management savings" to the $32.7 million budget former Gov. Timothy M. Kaine had submitted in December.

In amendments he will offer the House and Senate during a one-day reconvened session April 21, McDonnell will recommend restoring the funding.

McDonnell said in a statement announcing the decision that the deadly blast at Massey Energy Co.'s Upper Big Branch mine in Montcoal, W.Va., was a wake up call.

Massey Energy Co. is based in Richmond.

"Coal mining is an important industry in Virginia, employing almost 5,000 of our citizens, and it is the lifeblood of many of our towns and communities," he said.

The restored funding will be used to hire inspectors and buy specialized equipment they need to check mines for dangers that threaten the safety of miners, the governor said.

"This area has been of concern to me since we received the General Assembly's budget and recent events highlight the importance of taking the necessary steps to ensure our mines are safe," McDonnell said.

Facing a projected $4 billion revenue shortfall for the current budget that expires June 30 and for the two-year budget cycle for 2011 and 2012, legislators made unprecedented cuts deep into services and programs once regarded as sacred.

McDonnell has until midnight Tuesday to tender his amendments to the budget and all other legislation sent to him from the 2010 General Assembly.

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