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State budget cut for fourth time this fiscal year

Gov. Lawton Chiles and the Cabinet cut $27-million from Florida's budget Wednesday to partly cover the state's fourth tax shortfall this fiscal year, just 18 days before it ends. Next week, the governor and Cabinet will vote on shifting $68-million from interest accumulated in various trust funds into the state's main operations account.

The rest of an estimated $151-million shortfall will be met by transferring money from a state construction account, a land reclamation fund and a rainy day fund.

With so little time left in the fiscal year, it would have been impossible to balance Florida's $27-billion budget by cutting general revenue budgets, Chiles said.

"We could have literally laid off every state employee and we wouldn't have gotten enough money," he said.

The state Legislature endorsed the transfer of money from the trust funds during a one-day special session last week. Chiles and the Cabinet will have a special meeting Wednesday to approve the details of that transaction.

Education Commissioner Betty Castor warned her colleagues Wednesday that they would be hearing from a lot of people interested in protecting their pet trust funds. She pointed out that the goal of the plan was to cushion education, state government's biggest expense, as much as possible.

Public schools, community colleges, universities and Castor's department will account for $14-million of the $27-million in spending cuts. After the meeting, Castor said the bulk of that money would come from local reserves.