Budget cuts finally entered into state books
When Controller Kim Wallin refused to put the cuts ordered by the governor into the state budget, she said she couldn’t until they were approved by the Legislative Interim Finance Committee.
That opinion was supported by the attorney general’s office, which cited the law mandating IFC approval for any change in a work program larger than 10 percent of the total budget or $50,000.
That meant even though Gov. Jim Gibbons had ordered budget cuts in January, they weren’t actually in the state budget system, which means many agency budgets showed more money than was actually available.
But last month as lawmakers met to approve the cuts, the budget office found out some of those reductions didn’t require legislative approval while others that did had been approved before lawmakers voted.
The most glaring errors were that Wallin’s office approved the general fund reduction of $40 million to the Department of Transportation’s construction budget and the $2.3 million from a holding account in the Health Division. Both required legislative approval.
In addition, Director of Administration Andrew Clinger told Wallin in a letter May 22 that 17 of the work programs she had refused to process were either approved at the April IFC meeting or didn’t meet the thresholds for IFC consideration.
Those included budget cuts as small as $47 from the Older Americans Act budget and $78 from the Indian Commission budget.
And among the reductions approved by lawmakers in April but held up by Wallin’s office were cuts to construction budgets of $16.3 million from Public Safety, $16.7 million from prison and $13.5 million from the university system.
Wallin said all the changes have now been put into the state’s accounting system. She said the small reductions were held up because when she told her staff not to process budget reductions, no one thought about the small changes. They just stopped processing all reductions.
Approving the NDOT funding reduction, she said, was just an error that shouldn’t have happened.
Wallin said the errors won’t be repeated because when IFC approves cuts or increases from now on, they have agreed to send her office notification.
Until this round of budget cuts, she said her office had to wait up to several weeks for IFC’s minutes to find out what changes they needed to make to the budget.
Both Wallin and Clinger said the issue is really moot because no problems have been discovered from agencies overspending any accounts.
– Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at email@example.com or 687-8750.