- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 26, 2002

RICHMOND Every state agency can expect cuts of at least 5 percent and funding for some state functions could cease altogether in a package of emergency budget cuts that Gov. Mark R. Warner will make public beginning next month.
Mr. Warner said yesterday that his advisers will pore over options state agencies submitted Friday for cutting their operating budgets by 7 percent, 11 percent and 15 percent and announce the final cuts Oct. 15.
"At the end of all of this, state government will look very different than it does now," he told reporters after outlining the process by which his administration hopes to close a budget gap that already approaches $2 billion less than three months into the fiscal year.
"I think the level of cuts you are going to see coming forward on Oct. 15 are going to affect people's lives. I think the additional hard choices when you actually end up zeroing out agencies wiping out functions may have to be part of the Dec. 20 budget we submit," he said.
Without offering details on the 2,000 pages of data the agencies submitted, Mr. Warner and Finance Secretary John Bennett said agency managers had made good-faith efforts in recommending cuts, but some were being returned for more specifics.
"Certain agencies have said they're going to make cuts to personnel, but they have not specified which personnel or how many," Mr. Warner said.
"The plans do include painful choices, the kinds you expect. Agencies have proposed closing facilities, reducing service hours, cutting aid to local government, aid to individuals. Some agencies are asking to furlough their employees for a period of time," he said.
One agency had suggested furloughing all of its employees for up to four months, something the governor called "clearly unacceptable."
Even programs exempt from previous budget cuts direct aid to public schools, Medicaid, need-based student financial aid, direct care for the mentally ill may ultimately be cut, he said.
"We hope to continue to protect those programs, but they may have to be re-examined as well," Mr. Warner said.
Legislators who ask for them will receive individual briefings from Mr. Warner's advisers on the proposed cuts, but they won't be made public, he said. To prematurely disclose specifics risks needlessly traumatizing some employees whose jobs may, in the final plans, be spared, he said.
"I feel it would not be right, it would be cruel, frankly, … to put out that their jobs are in jeopardy when we may not make that cut," Mr. Warner said.
What the process does not contemplate, at least not yet, is a tax increase. Once the state had cut as deeply as it can, it will round up any unspent cash reserves in the budget and consider drawing for the second time in two years from the state's "rainy-day" reserves, he said.
"There are certain things like tuition increases, fee increases, certain other things around the edges that I continue to leave on the table, [but] we're starting this process with the assumption there are no additional revenues," he said.
No colleges proposed higher tuitions in their recommendations, but possible faculty layoffs may mean fewer courses offered and longer time required for students to graduate, Mr. Warner said.

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