RICHMOND Virginia Gov.-elect Mark R. Warner said yesterday he will wait until his predecessor releases the budget next month before he makes any decision on his spending priorities or program cuts.
Mr. Warner, a Democrat, said he wants to see what Gov. James S. Gilmore III does before he addresses some of the “tremendous challenges we face” in meeting the estimated $1.2 billion in revenue shortfall in the state’s current budget. The first step, Mr. Warner said, will be putting the state’s fiscal house in order.
“I look forward to seeing the governor’s budget,” Mr. Warner said at a news conference to introduce his 34-member transition team. “I’m very anxious to see how some of the shortfall will be addressed.”
One thing Mr. Warner won’t have to worry about is how to fund the final phase of the car-tax cut. Mr. Gilmore last week announced he will delay the full phaseout of the tax cut next year. In making his announcement, the governor said the September 11 terrorist attacks and the slowing economy virtually thrust the state’s economy into a recession.
Mr. Warner said yesterday he did not know whether Mr. Gilmore will allow him to see the budget before the Republican governor is expected to present it to the House Appropriations, House Finance and Senate Finance committees Dec. 19.
“It’s the governor’s‘ prerogative whether he wants to share it with me before then,” Mr. Warner said.
In the meantime, Mr. Warner said, members of his transition team are also working on budgetary issues, seeking advice from government officials throughout the state on how to address some of the shortfall issues if the need arises during the budget sessions in the upcoming General Assembly.
“We’re working as well,” Mr. Warner told reporters at his transition office in the Virginia Retirement System building. “We’re working through our issue priorities, but it starts with the governor’s budget.”
Mr. Warner declined to answer questions about his meeting yesterday with the state’s Advisory Council on Revenue Estimates, which Mr. Gilmore and Finance Secretary John W. Forbes also attended. The council is made up of state business leaders, legislators and economists who were expected to discuss the state’s economy during the next two years.
Mr. Warner told reporters that the council meeting was closed to the public, and that its contents should not be made public. Mr. Forbes was in a meeting yesterday afternoon and could not be reached for comment.
As for Mr. Gilmore, he will begin working on the budget “based on the council’s advice,” spokesman Reed Boatright said.
Also yesterday, Mr. Warner announced the members of his transition team. Sticking to his promise to promote bipartisanship in his administration, Mr. Warner named about a dozen Republicans, including outgoing Lt. Gov. John H. Hager; Attorney General-elect Jerry Kilgore; outgoing state Delegate Anne G. “Panny” Rhodes of Richmond; and state Sen. Kenneth W. Stolle of Virginia Beach.
When asked if they felt “uncomfortable” working with Democrats, they said no.
“Transition is essentially nonpolitical,” Mr. Hager said. “We’re all Virginians first.”
Mr. Kilgore agreed. “I see many friends in this room,” he said.
Other members include L.F. Payne, a former U.S. congressman who is the transition team’s chairman; Isis Castro, a Fairfax County School Board member; William D. Euille, an Alexandria City Council member; and Sheriff Beth Arthur of Arlington County.
Mrs. Castro, a Democrat who represents the Mount Vernon District, said she hopes to advise Mr. Warner on education issues, such as promoting diversity in the classroom and increasing teachers’ pay.
“These are all very important issues that need to be addressed, and hopefully I can add something to this group,” she said.
Mr. Warner said he may begin announcing his Cabinet appointments as early as next week.