State slices 4 percent from budget

FRANKFORT — Most state agencies can expect a 4 percent cut to their budgets to make up a projected shortfall for the fiscal year that began July 1, the state budget director told a legislative committee on Thursday.

Mary Lassiter told the Interim Joint Committee on Appropriations and Revenue that the main funding formulas for K-12 education, universities, the Medicaid program, mental health services, state police and Kentucky Educational Television will escape the reduction that most other agencies will suffer.

The cuts are preliminary. But it is estimated that the 4 percent cut will save the state about $80 million.

"There will be no mass layoffs," Lassiter told the committee on Thursday. Over the past 20 months, the state has gone through five different budget reductions. Some state agencies have lost as much as 20 percent to 30 percent of their funding over that time.

"We're beginning to see the cumulative effects of these cuts," Lassiter said. "It gets increasingly difficult."

The Cabinet for Health and Family Services — which oversees such programs as adult and child protection, food stamps and the inspection of nursing homes — will receive only a 1 percent cut, Lassiter said. Vocational and other adult education programs and environmental protection will not be cut, Lassiter said.

Agencies are still working out the details on what those cuts will mean to services.

The Justice and Public Safety Cabinet — which includes the Department of Corrections, juvenile justice and other public safety agencies — will need to cut $4 million. Jennifer Brislin, a spokeswoman for the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet, said Thursday that one juvenile justice facility will probably have to close, but the juvenile justice department has not yet decided which one.

The state is still trying to determine how much it will cost to replace buildings destroyed in a riot at Northpoint Training Center last weekend and how much will be covered by insurance, Brislin said.

The Cabinet for Health and Family Services will see only a slight reduction in funding because services already have been cut, Lassiter said. Vikki Franklin, a spokeswoman for the cabinet, said the 1 percent reduction will translate to about $4.6 million. The agency is still trying to determine how those cuts will be implemented, Franklin said.

Bart Baldwin, the director of the Children's Alliance, a non-profit that represents agencies that treat abused and neglected children, said he was relieved the cuts to the cabinet were minimal.

"A lot of these programs keep people from entering expensive programs like Medicaid," Baldwin said.

Many vocational and career education programs have seen drastic cuts to their programs in the past 20 months, Lassiter said. In one vocational program, 1,600 students were enrolled, but there were not enough teachers for the program, she said.

Environmental and Public Protection has a backlog in assigning permits. The state decided not to cut that program because it would create an even longer waiting list, Lassiter said.

Gov. Steve Beshear had proposed a 2.6 percent cut to most state agencies in addition to using $741 million in federal stimulus dollars to plug a projected $1 billion shortfall. During a special session this summer, the legislature passed a budget that included some of Beshear's proposals but also added millions of dollars in new spending.

The state budget office has been trying to determine for the past two months how deep the cuts to state agencies would be. Lassiter said the office decided on a 4 percent cut in part because preliminary revenue forecasts for this fiscal year show an additional $82 million shortfall on top of the originally projected $1 billion shortfall.

Beshear, in a written release, said Thursday that he tried to spare cuts to programs "most directly tied to the future of our children, investment in our economy and the health and safety of our people. "

Beshear said the state has already cut $579 million and has about 2,000 fewer employees than two years ago.