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State details budget cuts



Published: Fri, February 14, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



The cuts were made across the board.

HARRISBURG (AP) -- Gov. Ed Rendell's administration detailed how it would cut $120 million from the state budget as it works to offset an expected shortfall of nearly $600 million by the end of the fiscal year.

The across-the-board reductions ranged from more than $8 million cut from state agency operating funds to an additional 1 percent reduction for state-related universities and museums to more than $57 million cut from the Department of Public Welfare.

'Fiscal stability'

"In order to avoid more drastic actions later this fiscal year, the state must act now to bring the 2002-2003 revenue shortfall within its grasp," Rendell said Thursday. "As the economy continues to contract, I have ordered these spending cuts to bring fiscal stability this year, so we will be in a better position to manage the unprecedented $2 billion deficit we are currently facing in next year's state budget."

The cuts, made on top of spending freezes ordered last year by former Gov. Mark Schweiker, were necessitated by state revenue collections that continue to come in below expectations because of a faltering economy, the governor's office said.

Shortfall

The Rendell administration estimates that the general fund budget will be short by at least $560 million by the end of the 2002-03 fiscal year June 30.

In December, the Schweiker administration put forward a plan to eliminate a then-projected $433 million shortfall with budget maneuvers that included $270 million in current-year spending cuts.

"Pennsylvania must face the tough fiscal implications of a slumbering economy that has failed to wake up," Rendell said. "We confront an excruciatingly difficult budget situation and there are no easy choices going forward."

The cuts also included $9.4 million from the state prison system, $3.2 million from Penn State University and $1.7 million each from the University of Pittsburgh and Temple University.

Under the Public Welfare Department, long-term care saw $28.9 million of its $376 million budget cut in addition to $79.3 million frozen by Schweiker. Community mental-retardation services saw an additional $9 million of a $675.6 million budget cut on top of $3.5 million frozen by Schweiker.

The chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Sen. Robert Thompson, said the cuts parallel $310 million in freezes made by the administrations of Schweiker and former Gov. Tom Ridge in the last fiscal year.

Bob Greenwood, executive director of the Appropriations Committee for the House GOP, said Republicans agreed that there would be a shortfall in the current year.

"Since the revenues are down, this helps to eliminate the deficit," Greenwood said. "We would applaud the governor's direction."

Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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