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Officials outline toll of Kentucky shortfall

FRANKFORT — Without more money, some state parks will have to close and up to 300 workers will be laid off in the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, said Secretary Marcheta Sparrow.

Local Government Commissioner Tony Wilder said no new revenue for the state treasury would mean three to five layoffs in his agency, plus more furlough days than the three Gov. Steve Beshear has recommended. There would also be deep cuts in numerous local community projects funded by grants from the state.

Such gloom and doom was offered up Tuesday by state officials who said their worst-case scenarios can be avoided if the financially strapped state budget receives additional dollars.

Last week, Gov. Steve Beshear proposed tackling a projected $456.1 million state budget shortfall by raising the 30-cents-a-pack state cigarette tax to $1 a pack, by implementing three-day unpaid furloughs for state workers, and by cutting spending in most agencies by 4 percent.

He said he wants the legislature to consider all aspects of his plan.

Briefings by other state officials will continue throughout the week.

Sparrow, whose cabinet has a $51 million General Fund budget and 2,400 employees, said she doesn't know how many parks would have to close if there is no new revenue but said the number could be "rather significant." Kentucky has 52 state parks, of which 17 are resorts with overnight lodges.

She also said the potential 300 or so layoffs in her cabinet would involve full-time as well as seasonal employees.

Under a 4 percent cut — $875,000 — she said the eight welcome centers along interstate highways might close two days a week, but their rest rooms would remain open.

The Kentucky History Center in Frankfort might be dark on Mondays, and the Berea Artisan Center could open an hour later and close an hour earlier, reducing serv ices to customers and travelers on I-75.

Also, 10 scholarships for the Governor's School for the Arts, a summer program for gifted high school students, would be cut. That would reduce its 231 slots to 221.

Wilder said a 4 percent cut — $381,000 — in his $9.5 million budget would mean a reduction in travel to monitor projects and fewer grants for community projects, such as no funding for the Richmond Art Center and the Mystery Writers program in Owensboro. His department has 71 employees.

Justice and Public Safety Secretary J. Michael Brown and Energy and Environment Secretary Len Peters are to hold briefings about their budgets at 9 a.m. Wednesday.