Nov. 3, 2016 04:32 PM

Eager to get a jumpstart on finding savings for the 2017-2018 fiscal year, the House Appropriations Committee is planning a set of meetings for the first two weeks of December to begin reviewing agency budgets.

Department heads recently received a letter from the committee asking for a breakdown of how many employees have been hired and fired since the beginning of the current fiscal year; how many raises have been granted; and how much services have been reduced.

The thinking among some conservatives on the committee is that most all departments received funding for this fiscal year well below what was requested and the first three months should offer a guide for how that has played out.

If departments and agencies have been delivering on their core objects with smaller budgets, that might color the thinking of the committee during next year’s session.

The Appropriations Committee is the first step in the legislative process each year for the administration’s budget proposal.

Lawmakers made plans for the budget reviews in mid-October, before another set of letters went out last week telling departments and universities that as much as a 10 percent midyear reduction may be needed to address a $313 million deficit from last fiscal year.

The December hearings, which could stretch into 2017 depending on how things go, will be overseen by the entire Appropriations Committee. The sub-committee process will not be used.

Also, the entire House membership is being invited to the hearings and representatives not serving on the committee will be allowed to ask questions.