- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner last night announced cuts of $858 million from the state budget eliminating 1,837 state jobs, reducing state services, consolidating responsibilities of various agencies and reducing funds to higher education.
"These decisions have not been easy, and I have not made them lightly," Mr. Warner said during a 25-minute address carried on local cable and public television stations. "I know this is going to hurt, and that it will have a dramatic impact on many Virginians."
Among the budget cuts:
Department of Motor Vehicles offices, which have varying schedules, will close one day at week. Twelve branches statewide will close altogether.
Alcoholic Beverage Control stores will reduce hours.
Excluding state colleges and universities, 63 of 91 state agencies will have their budgets reduced by 15 percent.
Management positions at the Department of Corrections and the Department of Environmental Quality have been eliminated.
State salaries have been frozen, with raises not expected for fiscal 2004.
Mr. Warner, a multimillionaire telecommunications tycoon, took a 20 percent cut in his governor's salary currently $124,855 and reduced his office budget by 17 percent.
The cuts Mr. Warner proposed total little more than half of what is needed to meet the budget shortfall. He did not say how he would address the additional $700 million, but warned that things would need to change in order for state services to continue.
"Simply continuing to make each program leaner will not solve our problem," he said. "We have to recognize that some programs and agencies will not be able to do their jobs if they are cut further. I will submit my plans for consolidating agencies and eliminating programs to the General Assembly for its consideration and approval."
Speaker-designate William J. Howell, Fredericksburg Republican, and House Appropriations Chairman Vincent F. Callahan, Fairfax Republican, released a statement shortly after the speech inviting members of Mr. Warner's administration to testify before a House Appropriations Committee hearing next week to discuss the plan.
"Of equal importance, we look forward to hearing the governor's strategy for filling the remainder of the current state budget shortfall," the statement said.
Perhaps hardest hit by the budget ax were the state colleges and universities. In addition to the more than 1,800 state positions that already have been eliminated, Mr. Warner estimated that once the Board of Visitors approves its budget, 4,500 additional layoffs could occur. Funding for state colleges and universities was further cut from 9 percent to 13 percent.
"The result will be larger classes, fewer class offerings, and for some students, perhaps additional time in order to graduate," said Mr. Warner, a Democrat.
Mr. Warner said in order to save the programs he left untouched during this round of budget cuts, other cuts will be necessary later this year. He will recommend a further round of cuts in December.
During the summer, Mr. Warner announced a second round of cuts would be needed to address a $1.5 billion shortfall, and he asked all state agencies to submit plans to his office by Sept. 20 to implement budget reductions at the 7 percent, 11 percent, and 15 percent levels.
Virginia state law prohibits Mr. Warner from cutting more than 15 percent of funding to agencies without General Assembly approval.
Left untouched during this round of cuts were funding for state police and local sheriffs, basic state support for public schools, long-term care for elderly and disabled, and health care for low-income residents.
"In order to balance the budget we will have to make cuts in these areas," said Delegate John A. Rollison III, Prince William Republican and chairman of the House Transportation Committee. "He's leaving the toughest cuts for the legislature to make."
Mr. Rollison said tax increases would not be on the table something Mr. Howell and Mr. Callahan echoed in their joint statement. Legislators, however, would need to find other ways to trim the fat.


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