Bredesen: Budget cuts will be ‘bloody’
Posted: Thursday, November 20, 2008 10:40 pm
By ERIK SCHELZIG
Associated Press Writer
NASHVILLE (AP) — Gov. Phil Bredesen is putting the heads of state departments on notice that none will be spared from deep budget cuts.
The Democratic governor is now asking most departments to come up with ways to cut 15 percent of state appropriations out of their spending plans.
“As I’ve told everybody else that’s here: It will be bloody,” Bredesen said at budget hearings Wednesday afternoon. “You can’t do this by trimming over here and taking a little from there.”
Bredesen quickly dismissed as unrealistic a $27.8 million request from the Department of Mental Health and Develop-mental Disabilities that is mostly intended to establish a safety net for its behavioral health services.
“I don’t have $27.8 million to give you, so forget about that,” Bredesen told Commissioner Virginia Trotter Betts. “I’m trying to say that nicely, but I don’t have that for anybody.”
Bredesen said Betts instead needs to focus on ways to cut $20 million from her existing budget — even if it means losing matching federal funds.
“If I got a good federal match to buy a new Ferrari or something like that, I still might not buy a new Ferrari because I don’t want to put my part into it,” Bredesen said.
The governor said the Depart-ment of Children’s Services is one of the most difficult areas to make cuts. “These services are so important for some of these vulnerable kids, and at the same time I have the realities to deal with and need to strike a balance,” he said.
DCS has a slight head start on making cuts because the department in the spring made plans for reductions in federal funding that were later restored. Commissioner Viola Miller said those cuts totaled about $12 million out of her department’s $341 million budget.
The state’s budget shortfall is projected to reach about $800 million by the time the fiscal year ends in June. Bredesen has said pre-K through 12 education is the only area that will be spared from cuts to help bridge that gap. As a result, other departments are going to have to cut between 10 percent and 15 percent of their share of state funding.
The governor acknowledged that “people are going to lose services as a result of this.”
Stephen Norris, deputy commissioner at the Division of Mental Retardation Services, said he it will be difficult, but not impossible, to find up to 15 percent worth of cuts. “I know where to find that,” he said. “I’m not suggesting it won’t be painful, because it will be.”