Budget crisis
11:58 am
Thu October 27, 2011

Gregoire proposes $2 billion in cuts; new taxes still on the table

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington Governor Chris Gregoire says it’s time to look for new sources of funding for the state budget. That’s a major shift from her position a year ago. The Democrat’s comments today came after she proposed another $2 billion in cuts.

About a year ago, Governor Gregoire went before the cameras and proposed $4 billion in spending reductions. This was right after Washington voters had gone to the polls and rejected a tax on soda pop and re-imposed a two-thirds vote requirement for tax hikes in the legislature.

“The only message I have before me right now is an all-cuts budget. I am honoring the people of the state of Washington and what they told me,” Gregoire said.

Flash forward to now and the governor is proposing another $2 billion in cuts. They include service reductions for the developmentally disabled and pregnant women. Less state supervision of sex offenders. And larger class sizes. But this time Gregoire says she’s open to ways to bring in new money to offset some of the cuts.

“We have to ask ourselves now, do we want to look at alternatives of revenue? What might they be and do we want to go there?" she asked.

Gregoire says this next $2 billion will cut to the bone of state government. So, she plans to spend the next month studying options for fee hikes, closing tax exemptions and even raising general taxes.

Where the cuts would hit

Reductions announced in a press release that will likely be included in Gregoire’s November budget proposal would:

  • Eliminate the Basic Health Plan, ending subsidized health care to 35,000 low-income individuals.
  • Cut off medical services to 21,000 people enrolled in the state’s Disability Lifeline and ADATSA (Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Treatment Support Act) programs.
  • Trim 15 percent from the support the state provides to colleges and universities.
  • Reduce levy equalization, which helps property poor districts, by 50 percent.
  • Cut the length of supervision for all offenders, based on severity of offense. Sex offenders will be supervised for 24 months, and all other offenders, for 12 months.

“This is what our choices look like even after we let go of thousands of state workers and cut money to our public schools, our colleges and universities, our prisons, and shredded our safety net for the old, sick, and poor,” Gregoire said in the press release. “This is what our options look like even after we’ve taken the biggest steps in decades to make government leaner and more efficient.”

Copyright 2011 Northwest News Network