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Lawmakers hopeful, even after multiple budget cuts

Gov. Bryant has made four budget cuts for the FY2017 budget. Some lawmakers are concerned for the state’s finances, while others say it’s going to be just fine. 

Last Friday he made the fourth cut, a little over $20 million dollars with $39 million coming out of the Rainy Day Fund. It sounds like a lot, but Gov. Bryant said through all of those cuts $56 million didn’t exist, it was an accounting error, so all  together the cuts are less than a two percent.

“I think it’s been managed as it should. The rainy day fund is there to borrow money from or to obtain money from to be able to balance the budget,” said Gov. Bryant.

Senator Buck Clarke, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee sided with the Governor, agreeing that things aren’t as concerning as they seem.

He recalls his first time in state legislature, back in 2003, when the General Fund was at $3.5 billion. Right now the General Fund is at $5.5 billion. The state has grown $2 billion in 14 years.

“For people to say, ‘oh my gosh, the sky is falling,’ that would really be our political opponents that are saying that,” said Clarke.

Six years ago, when Clarke first began as Appropriations chairman with Representative Herb Frierson, the only reserves the state had was $90 million in tobacco money. There was no Rainy Day Fund.

“In that first budget, we spent that $90 million, just to make ends meet,” said Clarke.

Also in that budget, there was close to $300 million of “one time” money that was being spent repeatedly over the years. Fast-forward to 2017, the Rainy Day Fund is at capacity, and all of the “one time” money was done away with.

Sen. Clarke said they may have had to take a step back this year, but it was to put legislature in a position to go forward.

Rep. John Read, chairman of the House Appropriations committee said everything is cyclical. He said they’ve been making things “lean and mean” through some hard decisions.

“You hear that some agencies will have to lay people off, but remember there will be people that retire, people that change jobs. More often than not those that retire take care of that the downsizing,” said Rep. Read

He said the main thing they need to focus on with this budget is no “one time” money and having something in reserves.

Gov. Bryant asked for access to an additional $25 million in the event that there is a lower revenue projection in May and June. He was awarded access to $50 million.

“We don’t think he’s going to have to do it, but it was just a thing we needed to do to give him that authority,” said Sen. Clark.

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