Huge cuts in Gregoire's budget proposal

Dec 15, 2010

Gov. Chris Gregoire has unveiled a two-year budget plan that uses a mix of cuts to state programs, suspension of voter initiatives and use of the state's "rainy day" reserve to patch a projected $4.6 billion deficit.

In her proposal unveiled Wednesday, Gregoire makes about $3 billion in cuts to programs across state government. 

The Spokane Spokesman-Review reports the governor's cuts will hit the poor:

“The safety net will be stretched thin in some places and eliminated entirely in other places,” she said in her budget message.Gregoire also helps bridge the deficit by completely suspending two voter-backed education initiatives that deal with teacher pay raises and money for reducing class sizes.

She taps about $290 million from the state's Rainy Day Fund, and transfers about $400 million from other accounts to the state's operating budget. Her plan would leave the state's operating budget with a balance of about $881 million.

The News Tribune reports Gregoire laments the cuts that dig deep into programs she's championed and supported:

Gregoire said in her written message to the public: "It's difficult to support something that goes against all we have accomplished over the last six years. But these are the circumstances we find ourselves in, and we have been left with few choices."


What's Cut

The Seattle Times reports the plan eliminates a number of longtime state services and offices across government, including elimination of:

  • Basic Health Plan
  • Disability Lifeline (formerly known as General Assistance - Unemployed, or GAU), assistance to the state's disabled poor
  • Washington State Arts Commission
  • Washington State Tourism Office
  • McNeil Island prison
  • public school programs to aid gifted students

The cuts also include closing the Washington State History museums in Tacoma and Spokane.

Colleges and universities will lose about $220 million in the next two year budget, despite hikes in tuition, according to The Seattle Times:

In higher education, tuition would jump by more than 22 percent over the next two years at the University of Washington, Washington State University and Western Washington University. The other institutions would see double digit increases as well. State aid to help lower-income students pay for college would be increased by $92 million to offset costs for low-income students.

Earlier this week, KPLU's Austin Jenkins reported on the Governor's plans to merge and consolidate some agencies and state commissions. She also reached agreement with tens of thousands of unionized state workers on pay cuts and adjustments in their health care premium payments.

The state's Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) is facing the loss of $113 million from its budget. One of the proposed cuts includes interpreter services for non-English speakers at health facilities. The Associated Press reported on Monday:

Cutting the program would shift the cost of hiring interpreters to doctors, hospitals and clinics, or it will be another reason for health care providers to stop serving Medicaid patients, representatives for medical and interpreters services aid.

Under Washington's budget procedures, the governor produces a plan that is later debated and enacted by the House of Representatives and the state Senate during the legislative session that begins in January.  The state fiscal year begins July 1st. 

KPLU's Austin Jenkins will have more on this developing story later today.