Friday, November 13, 2009

Where, oh where, can we find $1.7 billion?

With the start of the 2010 legislative session just a couple months away, discussions are definitely heating up about how to handle a $1.7 billion budget shortfall (thanks in large part to continually lagging sales tax revenues and increased caseloads for state services).

Legislators already cut more than $3 billion in our budget this past session and finding another $1.7 billion in savings is not an easy task.

Rep. Reuven Carlyle posted his thoughts and puts $1.7 billion in context:

To put it in perspective, how big is $1.7 billion?

Here are three symbolic but legitimate examples of public services and programs that add up to about $1.7 billion:

Example one:

We could close all 34 community and technical colleges statewide that serve 470,000 students: $1.4 billion

Close Department of Commerce: $103 million

Close Department of Revenue: $218 million

Total: $1.72 billion

Example two:

Eliminate all state funding for the University of Washington, Washington State University: $1 billion

Eliminate all state funding for Central, Eastern, Western and the Evergreen State College: $337 million

Eliminate all state funding for Department of Health: $193 million

Total: $1.53 billion

Example three:

Close the Department of Corrections: $1.6 billion. (How’s that for perspective?)
Nothing is decided yet, but it's clear that more cuts are coming to programs people care about. Earlier this week we pointed out concerns about potential cuts to early learning programs for low-income children. Talks are underway about closing corrections facilities.

For helpful background about the budget and some of the not-so-great choices facing legislators, check out this
presentation from the Office of Financial Management. It has some great information. For example - did you know that $21.6 billion of our $31 billion is protected by constitutional or federal mandates? That means the $1.7 billion we have to cut must come from a tiny $9.3 billion slice of the budget pie.

And don't forget your role in all this. Your legislator would love to answer your questions and hear about your ideas and priorities. Send a note or call. Really. What else do you have to do on a rainy weekend?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The state WorkSource centers: One-stop job shopping

For a good amount of Americans, it’s tough these days trying to land the right job. But thanks to a state and federally funded job-search assistance service, some are finding it a little easier.

The WorkSource centers located around the state have helped unemployment-insurance claimants become as much as 37 percent more likely to find work than those who didn’t receive the services. What’s more, those who used WorkSource job services were on pace to earn as much as $3000 a year more than job seekers who didn’t visit WorkSource.

The results of the study were announced yesterday at the Renton WorkSource Center, where Rep. Steve Conway joined Karen Lee, the Commissioner of the state Employment Security Department, and successful WorkSource job-seekers.

WorkSource is a partnership of Employment Security, other state agencies, local governments, colleges and nonprofit organizations that work together to provide free employment and training services to job seekers and businesses. More than 270,000 people in Washington received assistance from WorkSource in 2008.

“In a tight labor market, these WorkSource centers are valuable resources,” said Conway who chairs the House Commerce and Labor Committee. “It’s been our goal to create these centers as ‘one-stops’ to meet the needs of both the unemployed, those looking to return to school or gain new skills, and for employers looking to fill jobs.”

WorkSource centers can help job-seekers:
  • Find job openings
  • Learn strategies for finding a job
  • Get job referrals and job search assistance
  • Get help preparing your résumé and getting ready for job interviews
  • Post your résumé online for employers to see
  • Share job-search strategies with other job seekers (job club)
  • Assess your skills and get career guidance
  • Get referred to a training program
  • Learn how much jobs pay and what jobs are in demand
Each WorkSource Center has a resource room for job seekers with:
  • Computers with Internet access
  • Telephones
  • Fax Machine
  • Copy Machine
  • Video Viewing Stations
Call or visit a WorkSource Center for more information.

For more information, visit a local WorkSource career center or read about it online at

To read the full report, click here.

Budget could cut kids from health care and early learning programs

In cutting $9 billion from the state budget this past session, lawmakers took nearly $12 million from the Department of Early Learning, 8.8% of the agency's total state funding.

Because federal funding helped make up some of the shortfall, children were spared the effects and the cuts went primarily towards materials and resources for parents and care providers.

It's estimated that legislators will have to slice yet another $1.8 billion budget from the 2009-2100 budget they passed in April. This time, however, children will certainly feel the impact, according to Paul Nyhan at Thrive by Five.

In preparing her new budget proposal, the Governor has asked state agencies to submit recommendations on how to make additional budget cuts. The Department of Early Learning was asked to find $1.9 million in reductions.

This is tough for an agency where 92% of their state funding goes directly to providing early learning for low-income children through the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP), our state version of Head Start. Nyhan references a
memo from the Washington State Association of Head Start & ECEAP which spells out what the additional cuts would mean:

proposed $1.9 million in reductions:
  • Reductions to ECEAP ($761k), which would result in the elimination of 100 ECEAP slots
  • Elimination of state funding for the Career and Wage Ladder ($750k)
  • Reduction of state funding to Child Care Resource and Referral Network ($425k)
  • The letter also notes an “offsetting error” in the ECEAP budget bill proviso amount in fiscal years 2010 and 2011, stating that the amount was $818,000 too high.
Additional possible cuts to other programs affecting children include:
These are only a small sample of the tough budget decisions facing legislators when they return to Olympia in January. The Governor will be first to present a budget proposal, due in December, and you can monitor her office's work here.