First, here’s the Associated Press story on the list sent to legislative leaders Tuesday:
Gov. Chris Gregoire is laying out some budget-balancing options for state lawmakers. But her plans require quick action from the Legislature, which isn’t scheduled to return until next year.
Gregoire is sending the information to legislators as they look for ways to balance the current year’s budget. Gregoire had previously cut spending to fill the budget gap, but low tax collections have made it even larger.
Gregoire’s letter spells out big steps that could be taken, including elimination of the Basic Health Plan and raiding federal education dollars.
But her plan couldn’t fully work without a special session of the Legislature, because it requires changes to state law before next year.
Gregoire has given lawmakers until Nov. 29 to submit their budget ideas.
In her letter to the leaders of the four political caucuses in the Legislature, Gregoire said she already made across-the-board cuts to solve an earlier shortfall. That solution, however, won’t work this time, she said.
“For example, I cannot make additional cuts at the Department of Corrections without posing significant risks to public safety,” she wrote.
“We need to make sustainable policy and budget decisions that are reflective of current revenue. We need decisions that meet our immediate need and those that will provide direction for the 2011-13 biennium. There are only seven months left in the biennium, and delay will result in deeper cuts and additional harm. Frankly, we all have run out of time.”
Reaction has been, as expected, muted but cognizant of the state’s latest budget problems. Here’s what Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown had to say:
“As expected, the service cuts Gov. Gregoire has proposed are numerous, deep and are painful.
“Her list shows the enormity of our task, and I commend the Governor for her first step in tackling this latest hurdle we face as a state.
“Our challenge isn’t just a math problem. We must keep in mind that the education we provide to our young people are their opportunity for their future.
“We must also keep in mind that the services on this list make a real difference in real people’s lives, and it can literally be a difference between being healthy or sick, being warm or cold, being well or in pain.
“The people who will be affected by these cuts have nowhere else to go. They’ve already exhausted all their options, and I want to make sure we exhaust all of ours before we make a decision like this.
“This process won’t be quick and it won’t be easy.
“Cuts will no doubt be necessary, but I believe there are reforms we can make within government that can also achieve significant cost savings. We need to look at literally every opportunity to reduce the cost of delivering services before we eliminate those services outright.”