State agencies asked to draw up plans for a 10 percent budget cut

Jul 18, 2011

The following article was published in the Florida Current on July 18, 2011:

State agencies asked to draw up plans for a 10 percent budget cut

By Gary Fineout

Gov. Rick Scott and state lawmakers have asked state agencies to draw up plans for another round of deep budget cuts.

State agencies have been told to turn in by September detailed proposals for next year that call for slashing funding by 10 percent.

Scott and the Legislature have ordered the plans even though state legislators in May approved a new state budget that eliminated thousands of state jobs and cut funding for schools and health care.

Katherine Betta, a spokeswoman for House Speaker Dean Cannon, downplayed the request and said the request does not mean that legislators will actually cut 10 percent.

She characterized the request as standard information that legislators want while preparing the 2012-13 state budget. Legislators are expected to pass a new state budget early next year since session starts in January.

“This is standard language that does not reflect our judgment of where we will end up in terms of available funds for 2012-13,’’ Betta said. “Rather 10 percent is a routine target reduction in the event that a reduction is needed.”

Florida lawmakers this year struggled to fill a nearly $4 billion budget shortfall while also setting aside roughly $1 billion for reserves.

The cuts have led to at least 1,600 layoffs in state government and more that are rippling through school districts and other public employers. Water management districts, for example, are also letting go of employees because of property tax cuts ordered by Scott and the Legislature.

Between now and September new estimates will be drawn up by state economists that will determine how much money legislators expect to have in the coming year.

State agencies at the same time must turn in their annual legislative budget requests.

Last week lengthy instructions were sent out detailing what must be included in them. Agency officials must show how they would cut 10 percent of funding from both general revenue – the main state budget account that comes from sales taxes – as well as money from other sources of money kept in trust funds.

Agencies were directed to come up with specific budget cuts and not just across-the-board reductions.

“Agencies should seriously consider reducing programs and services that do not achieve a sufficient level of performance,’’ read the instructions.

One glimmer of hope for those working in state government is that Scott and legislators did not ask agenices to come up with budget cut proposals for the current fiscal year that just started on July 1.

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