- The Washington Times - Friday, March 2, 2001

Virginia agencies must submit ideas today on how to cut up to 15 percent from their budgets, but lawmakers say whatever he cuts, Gov. James S. Gilmore III will hear about it from residents on all sides of the issue.

Since the governor told state colleges and universities Tuesday they must trim their budgets, legislators say they've received plenty of e-mail from constituents worried about those cuts.

"Most of what I'm getting is people who are concerned about trying to push through the governor's budget," said Delegate Robert B. Brink, Arlington Democrat.

But Republican legislators say they're still hearing their constituents say "full speed ahead" on raising the car-tax rebate.

Mr. Gilmore, a Republican, has frozen capital construction and new hiring and called for agencies to produce a list of potential cuts to close a $421 million hole in the current two-year budget after the legislature couldn't compromise on revisions to the budget in this year's session.

The main sticking point was Mr. Gilmore's insistence that the rebate on the personal property tax on vehicles remain on schedule, moving from 47.5 percent last year to 70 percent this year.

The House went along, but the Senate rejected the plan, preferring only to offer a 55 percent rebate this year and spend the rest of the money on health care, corrections services and other government programs.

Yesterday, Mr. Gilmore announced he's already identified $31 million of unspent money that can be shifted around, including $19.7 million from unspent accounts for local administrative officers and from debt-service savings.

"These savings prove that an effective and orderly management process can reduce costs, minimize the impact on our citizens and produce a budget that is not only balanced, but also a government that is streamlined and efficient," the governor said in a statement.

The administration also expects a lot of the savings to come from freezing construction projects, though officials said they'd have to wait until they have perused the proposals due today before knowing how much.

The governor would have to trim $421 million because he alone can't make adjustments without legislative action. If lawmakers adopt a budget, they can make more than $200 million in adjustments and their budget would then account for about half the amount the governor would have to cut.

The governor is considering calling a special session of the legislature at the end of this month to put another budget before lawmakers, but as of now, it's unlikely he'll get 21 senators to agree to a 70 percent car-tax rebate. That means the House and Senate won't agree on a budget.

"I've talked to a number of people over the last couple of days and we're very convinced we're being fiscally responsible," said Sen. Linda T. "Toddy" Puller, Fairfax Democrat.

Mr. Brink said he has received some e-mail in support of the governor's position, but they seem to be form e-mails.

The same e-mails have gone to Delegate David B. Albo, Fairfax Republican, who said he's also gotten what seem to be orchestrated e-mails opposing the governor's cuts.

He said the entire e-mail war seems to be taking place outside of his district since none of the e-mails are from his constituents. Still, he said he thinks most of his constituents want the car-tax cut to remain on schedule.

Sen. Bill Bolling, Hanover Republican, said he's had the same experience. He was speaking to a gathering of about 30 Ruritans this week and said not one of them wanted the car-tax rebate halted.

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