Haslam hoping to avoid 7 percent agency cuts, will gauge state revenues in couple of months

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NASHVILLE, Tennessee — Gov. Bill Haslam said Tuesday he will have a better idea about whether state agencies will need to cut their budgets by 7 percent once he sees what state revenues are like in a couple of months.

The Republican governor is holding budget hearings this week and spoke to reporters after his last hearing of the day.

In August, Haslam asked state agencies to submit plans detailing how they would cut up to 7 percent of their budgets. Haslam has said the cuts are contingent on state revenues, and he hopes he doesn't have to make them. He reiterated that sentiment on Tuesday.

"To cut to 7 percent we would feel that in some real ways," he said. "A lot of it depends on the revenue situation, which we'll know more about in the next couple of months."

Earlier Tuesday, the governor heard from the Safety and Homeland Security Department, which said the safety of motorists traveling Tennessee's highways would be jeopardized if it has to make such cuts.

The department oversees the Tennessee Highway Patrol, which could lose more than 70 troopers.

Highway Patrol Col. Tracy Trott told reporters following the hearing that a reduction in troopers would have a drastic effect on the ability to reduce fatalities.

"We faced these challenges before and we've cut certain things out of our budget, but we're at a point now where ... you almost inevitably have to get into people," he said.

During the hearing, safety officials touted a new software system that helps analysts predict the spots where crashes are likely to occur.

Since the department began using it in January, officials said the system has helped reduce fatalities across the state.

The system directs the THP to send troopers to spots where problems have been predicted and they can either stop them from happening or be on-hand immediately to help.

However, officials fear the cuts would have an adverse effect on the system.

"The problem is we would have certain counties without any troopers assigned to them, so the response time to a particular crash would obviously be increased," said Safety Department Commissioner Bill Gibbons.

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