State to take a ‘balanced approach’ to budget cuts, Spaulding says

State agencies have submitted proposed budget reductions called for by the governor after a recent downgrade in the revenue forecast for the current fiscal year.

Last week, each government agency submitted plans to achieve a 4 percent budget cut. Now the administration will determine which cuts will actually be made as the state seeks to compensate for a $31 million drop in projected revenue.

Secretary of Administration Jeb Spaulding at a news briefing. Photo by Hilary Niles/VTDigger

Secretary of Administration Jeb Spaulding (left) and Jim Reardon, commissioner of the Department of Finance and Management, at a news briefing. Photo by Hilary Niles/VTDigger

“We take a balanced approach,” Secretary of Administration Jeb Spaulding said. “The more broadly we can spread the reductions, the better it is.”

On July 25, state economists adjusted their revenue forecast for fiscal year 2015 from 4.8 percent growth to 3 percent. The budget cuts will total $31 million.

The administration will cut up to 4 percent from each agency’s budget, averaging 1.8 percent in cuts across all departments.

“There are some that can meet the target, some that have come in and said we can do better than the target,” Spaulding said. “What’s important for people to understand is that even if they have a 4 percent target, they shouldn’t assume that they’ll (be) cut 4 percent.”

This week, Spaulding said, the administration will review the proposals, considering the feasibility and long-term effects of the cuts.

“We look at factors like do they have time to implement those changes at this stage of the game, the impact on Vermonters, whether there’s a larger economic impact,” he said.

Monday, the Agency of Administration will present the proposed cuts to the Joint Fiscal Committee. The committee will hold a public hearing Tuesday afternoon and on Wednesday it will make a decision to approve, deny or amend the administration’s proposal.

“I would ask each of you to look at your entire organization and each appropriation and explore all opportunities,” wrote Jim Reardon, commissioner of the Department of Finance and Management, in a letter to state agencies.

“An expenditure reduction plan prepared for approval by the Joint Fiscal Committee shall indicate how it is designed to minimize any negative effects on the delivery of Services to the public, and any unduly disproportionate effect the plan may have on any single function, program, service, benefit, or county,” the document continued.

Tim Donovan, chancellor of the Vermont State Colleges, said this week that the system could face up to $1 million in cuts.

“There’s no way we could absorb a 4 percent increase without touching faculty,” Donovan said. He declined to comment on what those positions would be or which colleges might be hardest hit.

Spaulding would not comment on specific proposals or cuts the Agency of Administration is looking at.

“It’s $31 million,” he said. “I’m confident that we’ll reach that.”

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