Holden looking to spare employees $200 million budget cut

Thursday, December 13, 2001

Associated Press WriterJEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Gov. Bob Holden is working on a plan to cut more than $200 million from the state budget without laying off any state employees, officials in Holden's office said Thursday.

The governor, who already has vetoed or cut $359 million from the $19 billion state budget, is expected to announce the latest round of cuts Friday.

A recession worsened by the Sept. 11 attacks has caused state tax revenues to fall significantly below projections. Legislators were working Thursday with the governor's office to revise the state's revenue estimates for the remainder of the fiscal year that ends June 30.

Just last week, Holden budget director Brian Long had estimated that $150 million to $200 million in additional budget cuts would be needed.

Long said Thursday that the figure had grown to between $200 million and $225 million. Lt. Gov. Joe Maxwell confirmed those figures.

But Christmastime layoffs appear unlikely.

"The likelihood of state employee layoffs has diminished," said Holden spokesman Jerry Nachtigal. "They're thinking they can find ways around that."

One option is tapping into the state's revenues from a settlement with big tobacco companies. Much of that money is intended to go to health-care and anti-tobacco efforts.

But Holden already has withheld $25 million that had been appropriated for a new state health lab. Legislators also used $127 million from the tobacco settlement to cover a budget shortfall in the 2001 fiscal year that ended June 30.

"Everything is on the table except (cuts to) K-12 education," Long said.

------On the Net:

Governor's Office: http://www.gov.state.mo.us

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