- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 20, 2009

RICHMOND | Gov. Tim Kaine said Wednesday that the state faces a $1.5 billion revenue shortfall and must make massive spending cuts to close the budget gap.

The difference comes from a $1.2 billion revenue shortfall for fiscal 2010 added to $300 million in lost revenue from fiscal 2009. It will be made up through budget cuts and possible layoffs of state employees, Mr. Kaine said.

“I can’t say anything is off the table,” Mr. Kaine said after addressing legislative leaders on the state’s financial situation. “We’ve got some very painful decisions to make. It hasn’t been easy to make the decisions that have already been made that led to layoffs at the general fund agencies and VDOT (Virginia Department of Transportation).”

The governor said layoffs would not be made across the board but that it was too soon to tell where the layoffs would be made and how many.

When asked whether tuition increases could be expected at the state’s universities and colleges, he responded that those were decisions best made by the various boards of visitors.

“We have to go ahead and make these decisions; it is much easier to make them now,” Mr. Kaine said.

Mr. Kaine said the state is $298.8 million below the revenue forecast for fiscal 2009, which was a 9 percent decline, triple that experienced in two previous years with negative growth rates. He noted that the state already has tried to reduce a $5.6 billion shortfall for the fiscal 2008-2010 biennial budget. Revenues in fiscal 2010 are expected to decline 1.6 percent.

Republicans expressed satisfaction that the governor went with the highest forecast deficit.

“The governor decided to err on the side of caution. To look at the $1.5 [billion], I think that is a very realistic number. We all hope that it doesn’t get worse. I think that is a very candid assessment on the part of the governor and I commend him for that decision. Plan for the worst and hope for the best,” said Delegate Phillip Hamilton, Newport News Republican.

“When you have to do this type of reduction, I don’t think you take anything off the table,” Mr. Hamilton said, noting that the state should do everything to protect the core mission of educating children but outside of that everything should be looked at.

Whatever fixes are put in place for the coming years, state Delegate Lacey E. Putney, chairman of the Appropriations Committee, said fiscal years 2010 through 2012 “will be awful.”

“It will be exasperated by the stimulus money that is not going to be there,” he said.

The one-day special session was convened to address changes needed in Virginia’s law to ensure compliance with a recent Supreme Court ruling on the use of forensic evidence in trials.

A fix passed into law Wednesday is temporary at best. It requires that prosecutors notify defense attorneys within 28 days of the trial that the state plans to use DNA evidence without accompanying testimony from the forensic technician who performed the analysis.

The defense then has 14 days to object and, if the forensic technician is required to appear in court, the appearance must be within the state definition of a speedy trial.

“This is not intended to be the ultimate solution, it is intended to get us out of an awkward situation as expediently and efficiently as possible,” said Sen. Thomas K. Norment Jr., James City Republican.

Mr. Norment recommended that the legislature look at more permanent solutions when it reconvenes in January. Until a more permanent fix can be created, forensic technicians will be needed to work overtime.

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