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Assembly hears the bad news tomorrow
Kaine to discuss budget


Date published: 8/18/2009

BY CHELYEN DAVIS

State legislators tomorrow will hear just how bad the governor expects revenues to be for the rest of this fiscal year.

Gov. Tim Kaine will present a new revenue forecast to the House and Senate money committees tomorrow.

Lawmakers already know the outline; advisors earlier this month presented Kaine with two different economic scenarios, a bad one and a worse one.

In the bad one, Virginia is looking at a $700 million budget shortfall in the 2010 budget year. In the worse one, that shortfall is $1.5 billion.

Kaine has already asked state agencies for plans on how to cut up to 15 percent from their agency budgets. He will give lawmakers a general idea of how he plans to cut the state budget to compensate for the shortfall, but isn't expected to announce detailed cuts until around Labor Day.

However, Kaine has not ruled out layoffs.

House Speaker Bill Howell, R-Stafford, said he hopes Kaine will prepare the state for "the least optimistic forecast."

"Each month we delay not doing anything about it, the harder it is to make up the difference," Howell said. "I'm hoping we'll get a pretty realistic and yet conservative estimate of how big the shortfall is going to be."

Howell and other Republicans have criticized Kaine's administration in the past for predicting revenue levels that turned out to be overly optimistic.

Also Wednesday, legislators will hold a special session to address a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said it's the prosecution's job to make forensic analysts available for questioning in court.

Scientific analysis of things like blood alcohol level, or types of substances found on a suspect, have typically been introduced into court simply as documents. But the court ruled that defendants can ask that the forensic analyst come to court, and that the state has to ensure that that happens.

Virginia law puts the burden on the defense to subpoena analysts, so legislators plan to vote on a bill to bring state law into conformity with the Supreme Court ruling.

Howell said it can be done quickly, as leaders in both parties and in both houses agree on limiting the session's purpose and trying to pass a bill quickly.

"We're encouraging people not to give political speeches," Howell said.

Chelyen Davis: 540/368-5028
Email: cdavis@freelancestar.com