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Joint Budget Committee to Vote on Mid-Year Cuts

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The Joint Legislative Budget Committee meets today to vote on the governor’s plan for slicing $103-million from current year spending.

“These mid-year cuts are critical,” House Speaker Chuck Kleckley says of the painful necessity.

Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols says this budget balancing comes through combining cuts to state agencies with tapping into other pots of money.

“$36.4-million comes from fees and self-generated revenues, or statutory dedications,” Nichols said when announcing the proposal for this second round of mid-year cuts.

As previously reported, statewide elected officials are less than pleased with the scrimping and saving they’re being told to do between now and June 30th. Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain says statewide elected officials—whose departmental spending adds up to one percent of the total budget—are being told to absorb 16-percent of these total mid-year cuts.

“I think it was meant to be more fair and more equitable across the board,” Strain told WRKF.

Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne, whose Tourism Department is being slashed $3.5-million, simply says, “We’ve now hit rock bottom.”

Nichols defends the mid-year plan—partly by describing it with words that sound much less painful than “cuts”.

“These are good efficiencies,” Nichols states. “These efficiencies are absolutely achievable in these departments. And these reductions need to move forward so we can set the stage for FY 16.”

That next budget is $1.6-billion short. It’s the elephant in the committee room this morning, and Nichols won’t hesitate to point to that elephant.

“Everything in this mid-year deficit reduction plan and all of the savings we hope to achieve have to be taken,” Nichols says. “In the event they are not, it is a further reduction in FY 16, and those reductions can only impact higher education and health care.”

So will the budget committee meekly accept these midyear cuts and save their energies for the next budget battle? Or will members come to this table armed with alternatives? Today’s meeting could let us know whether lawmakers are going to stand and fight, or retreat till later.