With the economy stagnant and tax collections down, this year’s projected revenue has dropped by $770 million just since June. That leaves Gov. Chris Gregoire to cut $516 million from the state budget, which amounts to more than 6 percent of each affected agency or program.
Most of the cuts will fall on health and human services.
Since the cuts will be made over nine months, Sen. Joseph Zarelli said they will really amount to nearly 9 percent of agencies’ spending in that period.
Zarelli and other Republicans say the Legislature should come back into session this fall to grapple with the problem. The Legislature can pick and choose which programs to cut, while the governor is only authorized to cut across the board. Those in the Democratic majority, like Rep. Ross Hunter, say the Legislature would take too long to come to a consensus over what to cut.
Lawmakers won’t avoid having the problem fall into their lap, only postpone it until after election season. The Legislature will be back in Olympia in January, and whoever’s in charge will have to decide right away how to tweak Gregoire’s cuts.
Then the real work begins, as they write a 2011-2013 budget facing a shortfall that today’s forecast pushed to roughly $4.5 billion.