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House closes $9 billion budget hole by freezing teacher pay, boosting tuition rates and other stuff their Senate brethren did

Post by News Tribune Staff on March 31, 2009 at 10:03 am with No Comments »
March 31, 2009 10:03 am

That is, budget-writers spent almost $3 billion in federal stimulus funds, took $800 million from building projects and plowed the money into other state programs and spent most of the $700 million Rainy Day savings account.

“We are using federal money, which has been a godsend,” said Rep. Kelli Linville, D-Bellingham, chairwoman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

She said the House budget proposal would be balanced, but she expects a tax package to be put to voters at some point, perhaps providing additional funding for education and-or long-term care.

“It’s very likely that a proposal will come,” Linville said. “(But) the revenue package is not something we’re pinning all of our hopes on.”

Like the Senate, they would keep $850 million in reserve in case the economy takes another turn for the worse and state tax collections dry up even further. And they made about $4 billion in actual cuts to state programs, compared to the Senate’s $3.85 billion.

It appears the House and Senate both would freeze pay for state agency, public school and college employees. I found the K-12 freezes, but not the state worker wage freezes.

House budget-writers did not have a figure for how many state and school workers would be laid off, as the Senate did, saying they will let school districts and state agencies decide whether they can make legislative-ordered spending cuts as they see fit.

The Senate budget says 7,000 state and school jobs would be cut.

House Democrats came out with their budget at 10 a.m. today. They are expected to continue ongoing negotiations with Senate budget-writers and those from the governor’s office in the hope the Legislature can adjourn on time on April 26.

They froze teacher pay for the next two years, cut funding that has been used to improve the ratio between teachers and students, but not as severely as the Senate budget proposes to do, and canceled 2 teacher training days. The Senate canceled 1 day.

The House also would let the 4-year colleges raise tuition by as much as 10 percent in each of the next two years — the Senate put a 7 percent limit — and by 7 percent at the 2-year community colleges. (The Senate would impose a 5 percent limit.)

Because they authorized higher tuition rates, cuts to the higher education will range between 10 and 17 percent at the 4-year colleges and average 13 percent at the community and technical colleges.

Where the Senate would close the juvenile center at Green Hill, the House would close a similar facility, the Naselle Youth Camp.

House members also made shallower cuts to the General Assistance Unemployable and the Alcohol and Drug Addiction Support Treatment Act program by only 10 percent, cutting about $35 million from funding for medical coverage to that group of about 22,000 people.

Whereas the Senate preserved the Adult Day Health program for 1,900 elderly people, the House would eliminate the program.

The House cut the state-subsidized enrollment in the Basic Health Plan to 65,000 from 106,000 today, a 43 percent, which is similar to what Gov. Chris Gregoire and the Senate did in their budget proposals.

The House would save $21 million by letting half of offenders who violate conditions of their release from jail serve their punishment at home (wearing monitors) rather than being sent back to jail.

The House assumes passage of a “water discharge fee” of 18 cents per person per month, as contained in House Bill 1413. Their budget also assumes increases in hunting and fishing licenses to raise a cumulative $5 million, but the amount per license is not indicated in the budget proposal.

Nonetheless, 7 of 88 state fish hatcheries would be shut down.

Moreover, the state Parks and Recreation Commission would be authorized to raise camping fees for its cabins, yurts and camping sites. The House budget also assumes the state will adopt a voluntary $5 vehicle registration fee to raise $28 million for parks operation, but the House also would cut $28 million of general government support for parks, so it’s unclear how many parks would have to close.

It appears that all of them would close during the winter, but would reopen in spring and summer.

As the Senate did in its budget, the House authorizes the opening of 15 additional liquor stores to raise more money.

Here is the news release from the House Democrats:

House budget proposal balanced, but cuts deep

"Short-term strategy to preserve the long-term values of our state"

OLYMPIA – As she released her 2009-2011 Operating Budget proposal today, House Ways and Means Chair Kelli Linville (D-Bellingham) said her committee members "rose to the challenge presented by this global recession."

"This is not the budget we’d all hoped to offer today," said Linville. "However it reflects the reality of the economic situation we’re in today."

"We worked to cushion the blow to our families and businesses," she said. "We fully-fund Apple Health for kids, protect the safety net for our most vulnerable citizens, and prioritize basic education."

"We have a great partner in the White House," said Rep. Mark Ericks (D- Bothell), vice-chair of Ways and Means. "The federal recovery dollars sent by President Obama allowed us to protect investments in education and health care we wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. Yes, they are one-time dollars, but they allowed us to buy some time for the kids in our state while our economy recovers."

However, the House proposal makes reductions in every area of the budget.

"Nothing was totally spared," said Linville. "We tried to be surgical about the cuts, but the sheer size of the hole forced us to make very tough decisions."

Total hard cuts to the budget amount to about $4.0 billion, and among them are:

State budget
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