Gov. Chris Gregoire introduced a list of possible state budget cuts Thursday totaling a little more than $4 billion, including some $2 billion that she has tentatively chosen to include in her upcoming supplemental budget proposal.
They range from eliminating the Basic Health Plan and the Disability Lifeline medical program to cutting 15 percent from higher education and increasing class size by two students in Grades 4 through 12.
Gregoire made it clear she didn't like any of the options, but she also said lawmakers are running out of choices. The $2 billion in needed cuts must come from just $8.7 billion of the state's total $32 billion budget, Gregoire said, echoing what she told AWB members last month at our Policy Summit.
Critics attacked the governor's proposal, saying it should have included options for new taxes in addition to proposed cuts. Gregoire said she will turn her attention to revenue next, but she correctly noted that despite showing some signs of life, consumers and businesses both remain nervous about the economy.
"We need to restore consumer confidence in our state so people will spend," she said. "We need to restore business confidence so they will hire."
Gary Chandler, AWB's vice president of government affairs, sympathized with the difficult choices facing lawmakers, telling KUOW's Ross Reynolds this afternoon that small businesses -- which make up 85 percent of AWB's membership -- have been going through similar scenarios the last few years.
Chandler also repeated AWB's long-held position that tax incentives should be reviewed for their effectiveness, a point that AWB President Don Brunell also noted last week in a column.
Lawmakers should once again audit tax incentives, Brunell wrote. "Those that don’t pay for themselves, attract new investments or create or preserve jobs should be eliminated."
But Chandler cautioned lawmakers to make sure that cutting an exemption won't put more people on the unemployment line.
By laying out a list of budget-cutting options a full month before lawmakers are scheduled to meet in a special session, Gregoire has given them time to study her ideas. Sen. Joseph Zarelli, R-Ridgefield, praised her for the move.
"The governor was not required to put any of her ideas on the table this soon, so I appreciate her willingness to go ahead and share this list," Zarelli said, adding that he hopes the Legislature will complete its work in the same bipartisan manner that it did earlier this year.
On the web:
Governor's Office: Gov. Gregoire announces budget reduction alternatives
The Seattle Times: Gregoire outlines $2 billion in budget cuts
The Olympian: Gov. Gregoire's list of $2B in cuts outlines here
The Capitol Record (TVW): Gregoire: Slashing bugdget by $2 billion was 'dreadful'
Gregoire explaining at AWB's Policy Summit why lawmakers have so few choices in how to cut the budget