Guinn will start announcing budget cuts Thursday

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Gov. Kenny Guinn says he will start Thursday to lay out budget cuts designed to reduce state government spending another 3 percent.

Guinn made the comments as he left a three-hour session with budget director Perry Comeaux to go over the proposed cuts submitted by state agencies. The governor made it clear that, if the budget shortfall continues to grow, he could be forced to increase his request for money from the state's $134 million rainy-day fund to more than $100 million.

The state's projected budget shortfall is nearly $300 million by the end of this fiscal year.

Guinn said he and lawmakers can begin to restore the emergency fund once the 2003 Legislature is in session. "Why would you save it?" he said of the rest of that fund.

His chief of staff, Marybel Batjer, said agencies each presented their plan to meet the 3 percent cut ordered by Guinn, but that Tuesday's meeting was the first chance Guinn had had to review the numbers.

"We're going over it line by line," said Guinn. "We just couldn't get through it all."

Guinn said he doesn't want to "start cutting piecemeal." He said he doesn't want to hit any one agency or program harder than necessary.

"When you see them, you'll see we're not trying to hurt any one area," he said.

He said some areas including health services and prisons "are really holding me up."

The 3 percent cuts are in addition to those reductions Guinn already has made, including delaying the start of some new programs and freezing vacant positions unless they are critical.

He has pulled back millions budgeted for one-shot costs from maintenance and remodels to new equipment such as cars and computers.

During the legislative special session, Guinn supported a bill mandating state agencies cover increased costs of state-worker health benefits. But that legislation did so without putting any extra money in their budgets for it, which means state agencies have to find the funds in their existing budgets.


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