VOL. 126 | NO. 216 | Friday, November 4, 2011
3 State Agencies Offer Budget Proposals
ADRIAN SAINZ | Associated Press
MEMPHIS (AP) – The heads of three state agencies on Wednesday began giving Gov. Bill Haslam their proposals for how they would cut 5 percent from their spending plans in next year's budget.
The Republican governor kicked off annual budget hearings at the University of Memphis, the first time they have been held outside Nashville. The public was invited to the hearings, but less than a dozen people showed up.
Haslam said it's not clear whether cuts are going to be necessary, but officials want to be prepared in case they are.
He asked the commissioners of the three departments – Safety, Labor and Workforce Development and Economic and Community Development – to present steps they would take if reductions are needed.
Other departments will be asked to make similar suggestions as he attempts to fill an expected $360 million gap between expenses and revenues in state funding. Haslam said a 5 percent cut would be a reaction to severe decreases in federal funding.
"I don't see a situation where we would be getting to a 10 percent number at all," Haslam said.
The Safety Department was the first agency to present its recommendations, days after troopers arrested 55 protesters for violating a new curfew on Capitol grounds.
Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons said his department would need to cut more than $5.5 million, including 82 jobs, if 5 percent cuts become necessary. Gibbons presented a $178.6 million budget recommendation to Haslam.
Under the 5 percent scenario, the job cuts would come from the driver services division, Homeland Security liaisons, special operations and aviation units, Capitol security, and troopers who teach the DARE drug prevention programs in schools, Gibbons said.
Gibbons said he wants troopers to maintain a strong presence on the state's roads and highways, even if cuts are necessary.
"If we're in a situation to need to make cuts, the last thing we want to cut is the number of troopers on the road," Gibbons said.
Later, he added: "It's a tough situation. There are tough decisions to make."
Karla Davis, commissioner of the Labor and Workforce department, suggested a cut of more than $1 million to the state's second injury fund under the 5 percent scenario.
The Department of Economic and Community Development proposed a cut of more than $1.3 million, which includes reducing three jobs.
Haslam said he was pleased with the hearings, despite the low turnout from the public. Budget hearings will also be held at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville on Nov. 22.
"We were hoping we would get a good turnout from people who are interested, and maybe it just takes a while for people realize, 'Hey, you really can come and hear how the budgets work,'" Haslam said. "Regardless, we still think it's a good idea."
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