April 13, 2011

Bipartisan Murray-Zarelli budget shocking

The bipartisan Senate budget unveiled Tuesday night is a shocking document that goes beyond the negotiated contracts on temporary salary reductions and now targets Rainier School in Buckley for closure instead of Yakima Valley School in Selah.

The Senate budget (ESHB 1087) mirrors the House in proposing to close the Frances Haddon Morgan Center residential habilitation center in Bremerton and Maple Lane School juvenile offender facility in south Thurston County.

The Senate budget also differs from the House plan in that both the Democrats and Republicans agree on it. Senate Ways and Means Committee Chair Sen. Ed Murray and ranking Republican Sen. Joe Zarelli held a joint news conference to announce their plan.

The Senate budget would ask higher-earning state employees to take more furlough days. That’ll be a big problem where they conflict with our negotiated contracts.

Under that plan, those earning between $50,000 and $75,000 a year will take an additional four furlough days over two years. Those earning between $75,000 and $100,000, eight more furlough days. Those earning between $100,000 and $125,000, 12 furlough days. For those earning more than $125,000, 16 additional furlough days over the next two years.

There is a long list of exemptions from that proviso, including elected officials, Community Corrections officers, faculty, transportation agencies, University of Washington Medical Center, Harborview Medical Center, certain DSHS programs and agencies employing fewer than 10 employees.

In no other order, here are the other major points of the Senate budget:

On residential habilitation centers, Murray and Zarelli said there is no consensus on how to proceed, but Zarelli said Rainier was targeted because it was larger.

The Senate plan cuts the most from higher education, $642.7 million.

Under the Murray-Zarelli plan, staffing at Western State Hospital is cut 1.5 percent, but 3 percent at Eastern State Hospital and the Child Study and Treatment Center.

The Senate plan would fund parks, Fish and Wildlife and natural resource programs with the Discover Pass and increases to hunting and fishing licenses, similar to the House.

Medical interpreter services: No later than January 2012, the medical assistance program will replace the current system for delivery of spoken-language interpreter services with a more cost-effective one. Under the new system, one or two specialty contractors, operating within state-defined protocols for service quality, appropriateness, and timeliness, will be responsible for selecting and arranging the most cost-effective method for delivery of spoken-language interpretation appropriate to the patient's medical needs and the service-delivery setting. Such methods may include telephonic or video remote services for which the contractor sub-contracts with a qualified provider of such services, or face-to-face interpreter services for which the contractor sub-contracts with an in-state language access provider certified by the state.

The Basic Health Plan remains but enrollment will be reduced to 39,000 the first year and to 34,000 the second year.

It allows health savings accounts, which the union has opposed as costly in the long run.

There’s no closing of tax loopholes. Zarelli said he’s “still looking for a definition” of what a tax loophole is. Murray said there aren’t the votes to close tax loopholes – it requires a two-thirds majority – and wasn’t even sure if there were the votes to forward a tax loophole closing referendum to voters.

The Senate budget plan comes up for a public hearing in the Senate Ways and Means Committee Wednesday afternoon at 2:30 in Senate Hearing Room 4 in the John A. Cherberg Building on the Capitol campus in Olympia.

Building on last week’s successful “Week of Action” – and the release of the joint Senate budget plan Tuesday night – our coalition is planning another round of actions starting Thursday. Details are being worked out. Stay tuned.


The House Saturday passed the Democrats’ 2011-2013 operating budget bill (SHB 1087), 53-43.

House lawmakers adopted the amendment from Rep. Sherry Appleton of the 23rd District that directs DSHS to keep Frances Haddon Center in Bremerton and Yakima Valley School in Selah open until there are sufficient community options available to serve clients currently living there.

The rest of the House budget is similar to what was rolled out earlier this week and described here. The budget ball is now in the Senate’s court. Senators are expected to unveil their spending plan Tuesday.

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