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Archive for Saturday, December 1, 2001

State budget cuts loom

December 1, 2001

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— Facing a budget deficit, legislative leaders said Friday they will consider cutting current-year state spending as soon as the legislative session starts Jan. 14.

"It is certainly on my list of things that need to be done," said Senate President Dave Kerr, R-Hutchinson.

Kerr refused to say how much he wants to cut, saying that key lawmakers were still analyzing spending needs.

Because of a slumping economy, state officials have said the Legislature is looking at a revenue shortfall in the current fiscal year of anywhere from $225 million to $300 million out of a $4.5 billion budget.

Normally when the legislative session starts, lawmakers work on a budget for the next fiscal year, which starts July 1.

At times, the governor and lawmakers have been forced to reopen the books on the current-year budget. The last time it was done was in the 2000 session when Gov. Bill Graves proposed an across-the-board cut of about $66 million.

This time, however, Graves has declined to propose a budget cut, or rescission, on the current fiscal year.

Instead, Graves is working on a proposed budget for the coming fiscal year, his spokesman Don Brown said.

"His intention is to leave the (current budget) as it stands," Brown said. Graves' rationale, Brown said, was because lawmakers already carved spending in the current-year budget in response to an earlier shortfall.

But Brown said Graves would consider a rescission by the Legislature, although his support would depend on what was cut.

"Everything is on the table," Brown said.

Graves has said that the current revenue shortfall is so severe, the state will have to increase revenue. Graves, who leaves office in 2003, said he is considering increases in taxes, fees and expanded gaming.

State Treasurer Tim Shallenburger, a Republican candidate for governor, said an immediate cut to the budget makes sense.

"They should rescind the spending, shrink the budget a little and get the base down," he said.

Rep. Kenny Wilk, R-Lansing and chairman of the House budget committee, said he would let the Senate take the lead on any immediate budget cut.

"It would be difficult to do a recission if the governor isn't interested in doing one," Wilk said.

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