Kaine cutting $1.35 billion

Published 9:25 pm Wednesday, September 9, 2009

For Gov. Timothy Kaine, trimming the state’s budget by about $1.35 billion means eliminating 929 jobs, cutting the higher education budget, closing prisons and asking employees to take mandatory furloughs and contribute more to their retirement plans.

Every state department will see budget chops, Kaine said, though he tried not to make any cuts to K-12 education. The public schools in the state will, however, see a $37 million downward adjustment from the decrease in sales taxes collected in Virginia, Kaine said.

The cutbacks are the fourth round of reductions in the last 16 months.

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“This recession has really hit us,” Kaine said during a Tuesday conference call. “Thank goodness, not as hard as other states.”

The budget adjustments for the current fiscal year do not include tax increases or new debt, Kaine said, in an effort to preserve the state’s credit rating. The state budgeters made an effort to keep the cuts from affecting local governments, Kaine said.

“We really made an effort to not balance this on the backs of local governments,” Kaine said. “We want to enable them to deal with their own revenue challenges without us compounding them.”

The budget eliminates 929 positions, including 593 layoffs. The positions represent nearly 1 percent of all state jobs. A spokesman for the governor could not give precise numbers of layoffs for Suffolk or Hampton Roads. Many people were notified Tuesday they were losing their jobs.

In addition, higher education institutions will see a 7.7 percent net cut on average. The cut for four-year institutions will be higher, and that for two-year colleges will be lower. Kaine plans to bring forth some extra stimulus dollars to cover part of the gap, he said.

The higher education cuts concerned state Delegate Chris Jones (R-Suffolk).

“They have to balance their budget just like we do,” Jones said of the colleges. “When you look at cutting higher education, there’s not many choices unless you (lay off) faculty.”

Jones added the cuts could force some colleges to raise tuition rates and cut back on class offerings, making it more difficult for some students to earn their degree in four years.

“The pain’s going to be felt by all, given the magnitude of the cuts that have been made in the past and those we’re making now,” he said.

According to Kaine, the colleges and universities will use their own discretion in determining how to make up the resulting shortfall in their budgets.

Anne Seward, Suffolk budget officer, said the city will see reductions of at least $400,000. The number will rise once more details are revealed, Seward said.

In addition to the larger cuts, the state will close the correctional facilities in Brunswick and Botetourt and delay the openings of other facilities.

“There is sufficient prison and jail space in Virginia right now if you add it all up,” Kaine said. “I believe that there is capacity. I think we can manage capacity better than we do.”

A withdrawal from the rainy day fund also is planned, Kaine said.