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No early cuts in state budget preps ahead of next fiscal year

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — For the first time in years, state agency heads are not having to start work on their proposed budgets for the next fiscal year — FY2016 — by taking a big chunk right off the top.

“We are not requesting an across-the-board 7.5 percent cut like we have over the last two years,” Charlie Lorensen, chief of staff for Governor Earl Ray Tomblin’s Administration, said on Wednesday.

He admitted the state’s budget, though, is expected to again be tight when the new fiscal year begins next July. That’s why, Lorensen said, it will still be important for agencies to continue to find ways to operate more efficiently.

“We’re early on in that cycle. We have a lot of options on the table, but we are meeting regularly and pushing regularly to try to determine whether programs can be reduced, whether funding shifts can occur,” Lorensen said on Wednesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

A general state hiring freeze is still in effect. At the same time, some state employees who are retiring or resigning are not being replaced.

“Frankly, we really do appreciate state employees and the leadership of the agencies that have accommodated what is, in effect, a little bit more than a 15 percent cut over the last two years,” Lorensen said.

Safety net health care programs and education have largely been exempt from the past two years of budget cuts.

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