- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 10, 2002

NORFOLK At least 1,000 to 2,500 state workers will lose their jobs because of the state budget crisis, without counting potential layoffs at state colleges and universities, Gov. Mark R. Warner said yesterday.
Mr. Warner met with about 250 state employees in a forum at Old Dominion University to discuss the cuts he will announce Tuesday to help balance Virginia's budget.
He said the number of layoffs of staff and faculty at colleges, universities and community colleges are uncertain because colleges, unlike state agencies, can raise tuition and other fees to compensate for lost state funding.
"There are more relief valves available to you than other agencies," he said.
The governor plans to announce the first round of cuts in a statewide television broadcast at 7 p.m. Tuesday. No state agency will be cut by less than 5 percent, and some programs and services spared in the past including Medicaid, services to the institutionalized mentally ill and public schools may eventually be cut.
"All of those have been off the table, but they will have to be re-reviewed come December," Mr. Warner said. The governor will recommend more cuts when he submits his proposed budget revisions to the Republican-led General Assembly on Dec. 20.
Mr. Warner, a Democrat, warned universities to brace for the cuts and urged higher education leaders to collaborate more to avoid redundant areas of study and research.
"Not every university is going to be able to have advanced programs in physics and advanced programs in German," Mr. Warner said.
In response to one person's question about saving money through Internet purchasing, Mr. Warner said the state already has such a system Electronic Virginia, or eVA and colleges and universities have the poorest track record of using the system.
When Mr. Warner asked how many were willing to forgo raises to minimize layoffs, Heather Olivo, a 29-year-old social services worker from Norfolk, suggested the governor cut more deeply and reward employees who perform well.
"We do need layoffs of people who are not contributing or have redundant responsibilities. I know of a number of supervisors who I don't know why they work here, so yes, I favor a raise and more layoffs," Miss Olivo said, evoking groans and angry looks from many in the crowd.
Terrance L. DeLoatch, an employee with the state Department of Military Affairs in Virginia Beach, rushed up to her to criticize her remarks. "If you were one of those people in the position [of facing a layoff], you would not want to lose your job," Mr. DeLoatch said. "That was not a good comment."
A Department of Environmental Quality employee, William Cash Robertson, said that because of the impending cuts, some employees aren't feeling very important right now.
Mr. Warner said he understood and noted that mental health advocates on Tuesday held a news conference asking that no cuts be made to mental health.
"I know that those jobs are important, but my job is to make those choices," he said. "We already got through a $3.8 billion problem, so people think another $1.5 billion ought not be that hard. Well, this next round, people will see a reduction in the level of services."
Mr. Warner also said that retroactive raises are not likely once the economy improves.
Joan Dent, executive director of the Virginia Governmental Employees Association (VGEA), said state workers believe there is about a one-in-10 chance that they will be laid off.
"That's employees in taxation, DMV it runs across all agencies. And the 15th is only the first round of cuts, so it probably won't stop there," she said.
VGEA handed out a four-page pamphlet at the meeting urging state employees to "ask why" expenses that seem unnecessary are tolerated and to pass along suggestions for savings.
Mr. Warner said he had finished formulating cuts to about 75 percent or 80 percent of state agencies and planned to complete the task over the weekend.


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