Monday, April 4, 2011

Hunter rolls out operating budget proposal

House budget-writers today released their trimmed-down budget proposal that makes substantial cuts to every part of the state budget while preserving services and programs that help educate our children, care for those not able to care for themselves, and save lives. The budget contains $4.4 billion in cuts and reductions, including carrying forward actions taken in budget bills passed last December and February (view presentation of budget and summary).

2011 Budget Rollout

“There is some good news out there,” said Rep. Ross Hunter (D-Medina), Chair of the House Ways & Means Committee, noting dropping unemployment rates and recent profit reports from some of our state’s largest employers.

“But the slow speed of the economic recovery is still having a significant impact on our budget and our job is to make the most responsible decisions we can in these tough times,” he said.

“This budget is responsible, thoughtful, and sustainable. Our proposal spends less than the revenue we expect to collect in the next two years,” continued Hunter. “We are leaving a reasonable ending fund balance just in case those revenues drop again. But we also fund some key priorities, like basic education and levy equalization.”

“To us, a budget is as much a values document as it is a numbers document,” said Rep. Jeannie Darneille (D-Tacoma), vice-chair of the committee. “There were some things we were unwilling to do, like eliminating the only safety net available for the poorest people who are unable to work and care for themselves.”

“While writing this budget, we looked at all these numbers,” she said. “Then we took a look at the people behind those numbers, and worked very hard to minimize the negative impact on individuals and communities in our state.”

House leaders filled the $ 5.1 billion budget hole by cutting $3.2 billion out of current levels of state spending and enacting cost-saving reforms, foregoing $1.2 billion of planned increases for things like I-728 and I-732 (the teacher salary and classroom size reduction initiatives,) and drawing $514 million from fund transfers and other resource changes.

Examples of cuts include:
  • $482 million reduction to higher education institutions (offset, in part, by increased tuition)

  • $362 million from automatic increases to Plans 1 state employee retirement plans

  • $216 million from K-4 class-size enhancement

  • $177 million from a cut in state employee salaries

  • $141 million in hospital rates and related changes

  • $108 million from changes to the Basic Health Plan

  • $100 million in reduced Disability Lifeline cash grants

  • $97 million for reduced personal care hours for long term care and developmentally disabled clients.
“This wasn’t easy – we’ve said that from the start, “said House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan (D-Covington), “But we tried to provide a strong , sustainable foundation for our future by preserving key services while also reforming and rethinking the way we provide those services.”

Among things preserved in the House proposal are:
  • Apple Health for children

  • Levy equalization

  • Passport to College for foster children

  • Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP)

  • Disability Lifeline

  • National Board Certification for Teachers

  • Basic Health Plan

  • Family planning
House leaders also propose cost-saving reform measures including Governor Gregoire’s proposal to consolidate printing, IT and General Administration services into a new Department of Enterprise Services. Other reforms include:
  • Ending recent retire-rehire practices

  • Saving future pension costs

  • Incentivizing better high school and college graduation rates

  • Investing in new K-12 funding formulas

  • Moving our health care system forward – more managed care, bridging to federal health care reform

  • Modifying the Disability Lifeline to serve primarily as a housing program

  • Merging several arts and heritage programs
More information about the proposed budget can be found online. You can see a list of bills necessary to implement the budget here. The proposal will receive a public hearing at 3:30 this afternoon.