LANSING (AP) – State lawmakers get back to work this week with the hefty task of resolving a state budget deficit of at least $400 million.

The Legislature, which broke for a two-week Thanksgiving recess, begins a last-minute sprint to the end of the two-year session.

Any bills not passed by Dec. 31 will have to be re-introduced and begin the legislative process all over again next year if they’re to be enacted.

Attention this week – and continuing into the new legislative session next month – is expected to focus on the tattered state budget. In addition to the current deficit in the 2002-03 budget, incoming Gov. Jennifer Granholm is expected to confront a budget shortage of roughly $1.8 billion for the 2003-2004 budget.

The first step in attacking that fiscal problem has been planned with the scheduling of a revenue estimating conference for Jan. 14. State officials will use it to estimate how much money they’ll have to draft a 2003-04 budget for the fiscal year which begins Oct. 1

At the conference, the directors of the House and Senate fiscal agencies and the state treasurer will decide on a revenue estimate that is to be used by Granholm’s administration in writing her first executive budget recommendations.

But first things first.

The state House and Senate appropriations committees are scheduled to meet Thursday morning to consider Gov. John Engler’s executive order to trim the current budget.

It is expected to include about $470 million in cuts for this year’s budget, which already has been enacted for the fiscal year which began Oct. 1.

“It will be one of the busiest weeks in the career of many lawmakers,” said Todd Harcek, spokesman for House Appropriations Chairman Marc Shulman (R-West Bloomfield).

Members of the appropriations committees received notice of the executive order last week.

The executive order is expected to mean cuts of between 1 percent and 5 percent in state revenue sharing for local governments, as well as grants for universities and state departments.

Michigan is required by the state constitution to have a balanced budget. A resolution for the 2002-2003 budget deficit won’t be able to rely heavily on the state’s rainy day fund because the state budget director is expected to withdraw about $200 million from that pot to resolve last year’s budget deficit.

Now the rainy day fund, or the Budget Stabilization Fund, has a balance of about $250 million, according to the nonpartisan House Fiscal Agency.

While the budget occupies center stage this week, lawmakers have late issues to concentrate on as they move toward Christmas vacation and the end of session.

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