1.06: State agencies could face
big budget cuts
(Week of Feb. 12, 2002)
FEB. 8, 2002 -- When the state Board of Economic
Review today announces much-awaited fiscal projections for the state,
House lawmakers will have the information they've been waiting on
to start crafting a budget in the tightest year in memory.
Unless BEA estimates are far rosier than expected,
lawmakers are expected to make do with about $500 million less to
meet recurring needs, increased costs from growth and increased
demands. Sources with ties close to the House leadership say that
means most state agencies could face cuts of 8 to 10 percent - a
particularly difficult task after cuts in the current year approached
4 percent. Excluded agencies may be education, public safety (for
homeland security) and those dealing with health and human services.
In January, Gov. Jim Hodges proposed a budget that
sought savings in three areas to stave drastic agency and services
- Have agencies find savings
of at least 3 percent in their budgets.
- Adjust payment schedules at the end of the budget
year in June to carry forward some funds.
- Borrow from accounts with cash balances to pay
for needed expenses.
Republicans roundly criticized the governor's plan.
But unless they develop new revenue sources (unlikely), they'll
face big cuts or the alternative:
"They've got to adopt some of our suggestions
or cut $500 million," one key gubernatorial aide said.
The process ahead. During the week of Feb.
12, House Ways & Means Committee members will meet to discuss
proposed budget provisos - guidelines for how to spend state funds
within agencies. For weeks, agencies have been meeting with members
to request internal priorities. In the following week, six Ways
& Means subcommittee chairmen are expected to meet with Ways
& Means Committee chairman Bobby Harrell in closed-door sessions
to devise a balanced budget proposal. It is expected to be ready
by the end of the week of Feb. 19.
Next, the budget will be printed, which will take
a week. Then the budget bill has to sit on members' desks for a
week to allow members to process what it means. Look for House floor
debate to start during the week of March 12.