State News

Budget gap and spending cuts on the table

By Hilary Niles,

State agencies are being asked to stick to their strategic plans while drafting budget cuts up to 5 percent for fiscal year 2016, which starts July 1.

Instructions from Gov. Peter Shumlin’s administration include notification that departments will be expected to absorb higher payroll costs stemming from the Pay Act. Two versions of their proposed budgets — one at level funding and one reflecting a potential 5 percent reduction — are due Oct. 10 for most agencies.

Administration officials will meet with staff from the Legislature’s joint fiscal office to find consensus on projected budget gaps the state will need to fill. Chief Fiscal Officer Steve Klein said Thursday he expects it will be in the range of $90 million to $120 million.

“It’s definitely not a happy number,” Klein said.

Jim Reardon, commissioner of the Department of Finance and Management, said budget gap estimates at this time last year were closer to $70 million and proved to be pretty accurate.

On Friday, Reardon said he expects that plugging the hole this year will leave some departments with level funding but some with less money to work with. Others may even get more, he said, as needs and priorities dictate.

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