- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 25, 2001

Democratic state legislators have filed formal requests with Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III's administration for information about what cuts the governor made to balance the budget in the wake of this year's budget impasse and declining state revenue.
"We're flying in the dark. We hear numbers ranging all the way from a couple hundred-million dollars to a billion. That's a sizable number," said Delegate Kenneth R. Plum of Fairfax, who was among 10 Democrats who filed requests under the state's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
September revenues fell 8.4 percent from the like month last year, and the poor figures came on top of this year's budget impasse, in which the House and Senate were unable to agree on amendments to the two-year budget. The governor had to make cuts and freeze programs in order to balance the budget.
Democrats say the administration hasn't shared information on the specifics of those cuts, so they filed requests for data on 31 state agencies, boards or universities. They also requested information about any fund transfers from one agency to another, any hiring freezes within agencies and any reductions in spending from levels authorized in the budget.
The state has five days to respond to a request under FOIA, either by turning over the information or requesting an extension.
Lawmakers said they aren't sure what they'll do with the information, but they all agreed they have oversight power and no information to use it. Some said they could come back into session to adjust the budget if the numbers are bad enough.
The lawmakers announced their actions in a telephone news conference call organized by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark R. Warner. Mr. Warner had successfully focused on the budget impasse early in the campaign, but during the last month Republican Mark L. Earley has made taxes the top issue.
Republicans dismissed the Democrats' requests as a political ploy to try to change the subject with the governor's election less than two weeks away.
"It's clearly a political move, but we will respond to it as we would any other FOIA," said Reed Boatright, a spokesman for Mr. Gilmore.
The lawmakers themselves said they waited this long before filing their requests because they were hoping the administration would give them information without forcing them to get it through legal channels. They acknowledged, however, that they were slow to act.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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