November 21, 2011

Governor unveils all-cuts budget, proposes ballot measure


    Gov. Chris Gregoire this morning unveiled her all-cuts budget that will go before the Legislature when lawmakers return to Olympia for an extraordinary special session starting next Monday.

    She proposes $1.7 billion in cuts offset by $59 million in revenue requiring only a majority vote of the Legislature and $282 million requiring a two-thirds vote. She said she’s not optimistic about the latter.

    She also proposes sending to voters in March a referendum temporarily raising the sales tax a half penny until 2015. That would raise $494 million -- $411 for education, $42 million for long-term care and developmental disability services and $41 million in public safety.

    She said the revenue referendum would avoid $160 million in cuts to state support of colleges and universities.

    The revenue referendum would also stop the early release (150 days) of offenders assessed at low to moderate risk of reoffending, including sex offenders. It would also maintain the length of post-prison community supervision for all offenders.

    The governor defended not cutting state employee compensation more – she produced a chart showing that public servants’ sacrifices made up $2 billion or 19 percent of the $10.5 billion in budget cuts the past three years. But she is cutting $16 million for funding of your health benefits; but she says the cut in the amount the state pays from $850 per employee per month to $825 per employee a month does not affect your negotiated benefits plan. We believe it’s a slippery slope that could result in higher costs for you if the short-term decline in use rates spikes up again.

    The governor largely discounted calls by the Federation and our allies to cut deeply into tax breaks to raise revenue. The Federation has a plan to cut 27 tax breaks that would raise more than $2.3 billion. She said she proposes closing only a handful of tax breaks because it’s not as easy to do as some think.

    But the special session revenue proposals and the voter referendum are all iffy. The reality is she’s proposing an all-cuts budget we still must fight starting with job actions this week and the special session starting next Monday.

    In no particular order, here are the major cuts in her proposed 2012 Supplemental Budget:

• Eliminate medical interpreter services, specifically discontinuing the subsidy that covers the costs of interpreter services offered by medical providers to communicate with Medicaid clients whose primary language is not English. The budget would also delay the new reforms in delivery of interpreter services from Jan. 1, 2012, to July 1, 2012.

• Eliminate Disability Lifeline and the Basic Health Plan by Feb. 1, 2012.

• In Higher Education, reducing state support by: 17 percent at the University of Washington, Washington State University and Western Washington University; 16 percent at Eastern Washington University, Central Washington University and The Evergreen State College; and 13 percent at community and technical colleges.

• In Corrections, early release of offenders. Specifically, releases 150 days early those offenders assessed at low to moderate risk of reoffending, and sex offenders assessed at low to moderate risk of reoffending. Affects about 370 offenders, according to the budget.

• In Corrections, reduces the length of supervision to 12 months for all offenders except about 3,000 sex offenders, who will be supervised for 24 months. Right now, non-sex offenders are supervised from 12 to 36 months, and sex offenders are supervised for 36 months.

• In Juvenile Rehabilitation, reduce parole services for juveniles by 20 percent – reducing the time in which parole is provided or reduces the numbers of juveniles served. The budget does not mention closing any JRA institution – earlier “budget alternatives” had targeted Naselle Youth Camp – but there’s squishy language about shifting positions and funding “to better align staff and funds with the programs.”

• Closure of four wards at Western State Hospital, including two for patients suffering from traumatic brain injury and dementia. No mention was made of a ward closure at Eastern State Hospital, which was an earlier “budget alternative.”

• Closure of Rainier School in Buckley in the Division of Developmental Disabilities.

• Elimination of several Child Welfare programs, including receiving care centers, foster care assessment program, continuum of care, sex abuse recognition training, children’s advocacy centers, adoption support recruitment, street youth and state funding for educational coordinators.

• In Ecology, holds vacant 14 and eliminates 13 state-funded positions in a number of programs, including air quality, water resources, water quality, toxic clean-ups and hazardous waste management.

• The governor’s budget would lay off another 1,500 state employees.


• Go to the Federation website at for information on job actions this week and actions during the special session starting next Monday, Nov. 28.


    Call 1-800-562-6000 or send an email from our Action Center at

    Tell your legislators to cut tax breaks to raise revenue. Save public safety, public services and higher education.

    The choice is clear.

    • Legislators can yield to the wealthiest 1 percent and cut public safety, public services and higher education.


    • They can stand with the 99 percent – the rest of us – and take the vote to cut billions in tax breaks to raise revenue. We need to create jobs, save the middle class and restore our economy. You can see a series of possible tax breaks that could be closed to cover the $2 billion deficit. Go to the Federation website at

• WHY? We can do better. The future of our state depends on the choices we make now. We have to make the profitable corporations and the wealthiest 1 percent pay their fair share. It doesn’t make sense to hand out tax breaks to big banks and special interests at the same time we’re raising tuition, harming our environment, damaging public safety and putting people with disabilities and mental illness out on the streets.

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