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October 13, 2008

News Article: Burrelesluce.com

By PUBLISHED BY THE EDITORIAL BOARD

Published: October 13, 2008

The Chatham Diversion Center - known for years as Camp 15 - will soon be closed. Its employees will fill vacancies at other state prisons and its inmates will be transferred to underused diversion centers around the state.

At the Institute for Advanced Learning & Research, a 10 percent state budget cut will hack nearly $700,000 out of the budget. The Institute will cut administrative staff and leave some positions unfilled.

"... I will work diligently to ensure that this budget reduction will not impact our work here more than is necessary," said Liam Leightley, the
Institute's new executive director.

Want to visit the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville on a Sunday? To trim 10 percent from the museum's budget, Sunday and Monday hours will soon go the way of the dinosaurs. The museum will also fire employees, close on state holidays and make other
reductions.

As Virginia's economy slows down, the economic activity taxed by the state - employment, retail sales and home purchases - brings fewer
dollars into the state's treasury.

Virginia budgets two years into the future, and if spending wasn't cut, the state would end the current biennium with a $2.5 billion deficit.
Since that can't happen, state agencies are cutting their budgets - some for the third time in a year.

"We will continue to examine every government expenditure for performance and efficiency, but we will have to look at new ways of doing things and ask ourselves hard questions about all of our programs," Gov. Timothy M. Kaine said in a news release. "No one would wish for a crisis like this, and as we move forward, there will be more difficult choices to make. But we should embrace the opportunity to critically evaluate how we're spending taxpayer money, and whether every program is delivering the results people deserve." 

A budget crisis is an opportunity to examine what the state spends money on and how the government can be more efficient. For the state employees who will lose their jobs - Kaine announced 570 layoffs last week - it's a bitter pill to swallow. Those state workers that didn't lose their jobs could see planned raises delayed if not eliminated.

Once the economy improves, many of the cuts now being made will be restored. But others will be permanent, resulting in a smaller, leaner and smarter state government.

"These are not easy decisions. Somewhere you have to ask yourself this question: Is this program a core service of the Commonwealth of
Virginia?" Delegate Don Merricks, R-Pittsylvania County, said. "These are dire times. This is the beginning, and I don't think we've seen the end."

What the state government will look like at the end is anyone's guess. But faced with making tough choices, the state government we have will rewrite the definition of what is essential government services.

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