Administration announces state budget cuts

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(Host) The Dean administration’s plan to reduce state spending includes eliminating 88 state jobs and cutting a variety of government programs.

VPR’s John Dillon reports.

(Dillon) Just weeks after the Legislature went home this spring, lawmakers learned that this year’s budget would face a $39 million deficit. On Monday, Administration Secretary Kathy Hoyt came before the Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Committee with a plan for how the budget could be balanced.

About two-thirds of the shortfall will be covered by moving money around from various funds. Hoyt says the rest – about $11 million – needs to come from existing programs.

(Hoyt) “Even though we got the millions of dollars in actual cuts to what we hope we can manage in a benign way, we can’t make everybody happy. And I’m sure that there will be a lot of people who wonder why we made some of the choices we did, and would like to question some of those choices.”

(Dillon) The state wants to save money by cutting 88 positions in various agencies. The plan includes laying off up to 24 full time workers and 23 temporary employees. Finance and Management Commissioner Sean Campbell says some of those slated for lay-offs could eventually find work elsewhere in state government.

(Campbell) “The chances are that very few people will lose a job. They will lose the specific job they’re doing today, but there’s probably still an opportunity for them in state government.”

(Dillon) Few areas of state government were spared the budget knife. Even two rest areas on Interstate 89 near Randolph would be closed. But administration officials don’t want to cut funds for higher education, economic development and travel and tourism programs.

Under the administration’s plan, the Human Services Agency absorbs about half the budget cuts. The plan includes cuts to the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, corrections, and staff in the central office.

Administration Secretary Hoyt says the budget adjustments should balance the books for this year. But she warns that the next Legislature – and the next governor – will also have a lot of hard work to do.

(Hoyt) “We believe if you look at the projections for 2004, there’s only $2 million difference between what we anticipate will be spent in 2003 and [what will be] available in 2004. That means a tight, an extremely tight, budget will need to put together in 2004.”

(Dillon) The Joint Fiscal Committee will meet again later this week to continue work on the budget.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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