Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Hundreds show up to talk about state budget

Last night was the first of four public budget hearings hosted by Governor Chris Gregoire.

More than 450 people crowded the room UW-Tacoma to hear presentations from the Governor's budget guy, Marty Brown, the Governor herself, and staff from the Office of Financial Management.

Attendees were given a 10-page overview describing our budget situation and the six "values" driving budget decisions: student achievement, protect health and vulnerable people, economic development, effective government, public safety, and natural resources.

About 40 people were able to testify of the 140 who had signed up. Many of the comments were pleas to continue funding for various programs, though some people offered up ideas on how to address the budget shortfall. Suggestions included:
  • Take away the $5 million tax exemption for the TransAlta coal plant and make more progress on climate change
  • Close down state institutions for people with developmental disabilities and put resources in community
  • Set up a state bank like in North Dakota
  • Re-negotiate state employee collective bargaining contract and cut salaries
  • Set up waiver programs and low-interest repayment plans for businesses that can’t afford to pay state taxes
The Governor has also set up a website where the public can post comments. It went up yesterday, and as this blog post is being written, there are nearly 400 suggestions. You can take a look and vote to agree or disagree or comment on the ideas posted.

You can also take a look at this morning’s News Tribune story about last night’s hearing .

Three public meetings remain:
  • Tomorrow, July 21 at 7 p.m. – Everett (Everett Community College, Parks Building, Multi Purpose Room, 2000 Tower Street)
  • Tuesday, July 27 at 7 p.m. —Vancouver (WSU-Vancouver, Administration Building Room 110, 14204 NE Salmon Creek Avenue)
  • Thursday, July 29 with time TBA—Spokane (Spokane City Hall, City Council Chambers, 808 W. Spokane Falls Boulevard)