Thursday, September 22, 2011

Governor convenes special legislative session Nov. 28 to perform “brutal” work of cutting budget

Gov. Chris Gregoire is calling the Legislature into special session for up to 30 days starting Nov. 28, to work on a supplemental budget that could trim an additional $2 billion in state spending over the remainder of the 2011-13 biennium, which began July 1.
The $2 billion budget cut proposed by the Governor at a press conference Thursday is larger than the $1.4 billion revenue shortfall announced earlier this month by the Washington State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council.
At the news conference, the Governor said additional cuts to public schools and colleges appear to be “unavoidable,” but she did not provide specifics.  Those will come when the Governor submits her supplemental budget proposal to the Legislature prior to the start of the special session.
Other major program areas that are likely to see significant cuts are in social services, health care and corrections.
One of the reasons the Governor chose Nov. 28 for the start of the special session is that it follows the next state revenue forecast on Nov. 17, when more bad news for the state budget is expected.
The $2 billion in cuts will have to be found in the $8.7 billion portion of the state budget that is not protected by state or federal law.  Higher education funding is one of the discretionary items in the budget.
Today was the deadline for state agencies under the Governor’s direct control to offer ways of cutting their budgets by 10 percent.  However, a 10 percent reduction would not be enough to solve the size of the current budget problem, and even if it was, applying it equally across all agencies could lead to unacceptable public safety problems, the Governor said.
Governor Gregoire said the state no longer has the ability to take a “Pac Man” approach of balancing the budget by taking little bites out of programs or services.  “We’re beyond that now. We have to admit there are some things we can no longer do,” she said.
The Governor said she wants the Legislature to wrap up work on the supplemental budget in December so legislators can focus on ways to create more jobs when the regular session begins in January.

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