The Seattle Times
Current general fund budgetKELLY SHEA / THE SEATTLE TIMES
State lawmakers have a big problem: The next two-year state budget faces a shortfall of up to $1.3 billion. And on top of that, the state Supreme Court has said Washington isn't meeting its obligation to fully fund basic education. Meeting that mandate could cost an additional $500 million to $1.7 billion over the next two years, depending on whom you ask. Here's your chance to decide how you would balance the state budget and increase education funding at the same time.
A few proposals have been offered to help achieve those goals. These possible cuts and tax increases are compiled from former Gov. Chris Gregoire's 2013-15 budget proposal released in December, from a list of possible cuts offered by a state commission examining how to improve education, from House Republicans and individual lawmakers, and from Gov. Jay Inslee's budget priorities released March 28. This is not a comprehensive list of every potential cut or tax increase mentioned, but it gives an idea of the choices lawmakers may have to make.
To add or remove an option, you can drag or click once on it. Benchmarks on the right will activate as you reach them. Click the information icon to learn more about each item.
- Cut HIV services$37.0M
Proposal informationThis would eliminate such services as prescription drug assistance, health insurance-premium assistance, and medical case management for approximately 4,000 HIV-positive clients.
- Cut public-health funding$64.0M
Proposal informationThis would eliminate state funding for certain local public-health programs that set community health priorities and establish community health improvement plans, among other things.
- Eliminate health coverage for undocumented children$41.0M
Proposal informationThis provides health coverage for children whose families meet Medicaid income eligibility standards but who are disqualified from Medicaid for other reasons – usually because they are undocumented. The money also reimburses hospitals and other providers for emergency treatments provided to undocumented children.
- Eliminate funding for medically needy$67.5M
Proposal informationMedically needy are aged, blind or disabled clients who are declared Medicaid eligible after they spend (and continue to spend) a significant amount of their own income on their health care. This is also called “spend-down.”
- Accept Medicaid expansion in the federal Affordable Care Act$296.0M
Proposal informationUnder President Obama’s health-care law, states have the option to expand Medicaid, with the federal government picking up the tab. That could result in a few hundred-thousand residents switching from state-funded health-care programs onto Medicaid.
- Eliminate Disability Lifeline, ADATSA medical and Basic Health Plan$50.5M
Proposal informationThis would eliminate Disability Lifeline (now called Medical Care Services), as well as a state substance-abuse treatment program called ADATSA and the Basic Health Plan. Disability Lifeline provides medical coverage for people with temporary disabilities; ADATSA money for substance-abuse treatment; and the Basic Health Plan provides health coverage for the working poor.
- Extend Hospital Safety Net fees on hospital operations$259.0M
Proposal informationThe fees, originally requested by hospitals in Washington state as a way to obtain matching funds from the federal government, also now support the state general fund. The program is scheduled to expire this summer.
- Close special-offender commitment center$74.0M
Proposal informationThis would close the McNeil Island facility that houses sex offenders who have finished their sentences but are deemed too dangerous to release. The facility provides treatment for these offenders.
- Eliminate assistance to crime victims$54.0M
Proposal informationThe departments of Commerce and Labor and Industries administer several programs for crime victims, including education about dangers, compensation for losses and grants to assist victims of sexual assault.
- Eliminate offender supervision$18.9M
Proposal informationThis would eliminate supervision for offenders released from jail.
- Charge foreign students higher tuition$59.0M
Proposal informationThis proposal would levy a 20 percent surcharge on tuition paid by international students attending Washington state colleges and universities. Currently, foreign students pay the same tuition as out-of-state students. The surcharge would increase the price of undergraduate tuition for international students at the University of Washington by about $6,000 -- to $35,000 a year.
- Across-the-board cuts to public universities and colleges$52.0M
Proposal informationThis would reduce state general-fund support to two-year and four-year colleges and universities by 2.5 percent.
- Cut State Need Grants by half$310.0M
Proposal informationThe State Need Grant program provides funding for about 75,000 poor students to attend college each year.
- Eliminate state education-reform programs$37.0M
Proposal informationThe state currently funds dozens of initiatives run on a competitive grant basis to address a variety of issues, including career and technical education, wrap-around-services that support poor children, and training of principals on the state’s new teacher-evaluation system.
- Re-adopt temporary salary cuts for teachers$166.0M
Proposal informationA budget-saving measure temporarily cut teacher pay by 1.9 percent and the salaries of school administrators by 3 percent. This would extend the cuts beyond their expiration date this year.
- Eliminate bonuses for teachers certified by national board$98.0M
Proposal informationAll Washington state teachers certified by the National Board on Professional Teaching Standards currently receive a $5,000 bonus, and those working in high-poverty schools receive another $5,000 bonus. The program is meant to encourage certification, which requires advanced training.
- Reduce levy-equalization payments to local school districts$100.0M
Proposal informationThis proposal would reduce levy equalization funding to local school districts by $100 million, or 21 percent. Levy-equalization money goes to mostly small and rural school districts that cannot afford to raise as much through levies as other districts. It is by far the largest state funding program in K-12 that is not included in the Legislature’s definition of basic education.
- Eliminate Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program$112.0M
Proposal informationThis program provides free preschool programs for about 8,500 low-income children each year.
- Cut state contribution to teacher health insurance$163.0M
Proposal informationCurrently, the state contributes an average of $648 per month to the health-care premiums for teachers –78 percent of the cost. Reducing the state contribution by 10 percent would cost each teacher on average about $65 a month extra.
- Suspend Initiative 732$360.0M
Proposal informationThis initiative, approved by voters, mandates annual cost-of-living raises for teachers. It has been repeatedly suspended by the Legislature due to budget shortfalls.
- Cut state contribution to state employee health insurance by 10 percent$218.0M
Proposal informationThe state pays about $800 per month in health-care premiums for each state employee. The employees in turn pay an average of $140 month for health-care premiums – 15 percent of the total cost. Reducing the state contribution by 10 percent would cost employees an extra $80 per month (they would pay 27 percent instead of 15 percent).
- Re-adopt temporary salary cuts for non-teacher state employees$169.0M
Proposal informationA budget-saving measure temporarily cut the salaries of state employees (except teachers) by 3 percent. The cut is supposed to end in July.
- Eliminate state support for the Department of Agriculture$30.0M
Proposal informationState funding to the Department of Agriculture is used mostly to support the state’s food banks. Some money is also directed to help administer county fairs.
- Reduce budgets for legislative/judicial agencies, and the governor’s office$43.0M
Proposal informationThe governor’s office and legislative and judicial agencies receive money to conduct functions of government.
- Across-the-board cut for all agencies$101.0M
Proposal informationThis proposal would impose a 2 percent across-the-board cut on all state agencies.
- Eliminate state support for the Department of Fish and Wildlife$66.0M
Proposal informationState funding to the Department of Fish and Wildlife is used for a variety of programs, including processing hunting and fishing licenses, assessing proposed hydraulic projects and managing the state’s fish runs and wolf populations. Eliminating the funding would likely lead to user-fee increases.
- Eliminate state support for the Department of Ecology$92.0M
Proposal informationState funding to the Department of Ecology is used for a variety of programs, including administering vehicle smog tests, offering rebates for turning in wood stoves, assessing the environmental impacts of development on the state’s shorelines and processing applications for farmers requesting water rights. Eliminating the funding would likely lead to user-fee increases.
- Eliminate state support for the Department of Natural Resources$72.0M
Proposal informationState funding to the Department of Natural Resources is used to fight forest fires, manage the state’s land trusts and map the state’s resources.
- Repeal the sales tax exemption for local residential telephone service$83.2M
Proposal informationThe would repeal the sales tax exemption for local residential telephone service. Currently, only traditional land-line local service qualifies for the sales tax exemption.
- Repeal extracted fuel use tax exemption$62.6M
Proposal informationThis tax exemption is for fuel produced by a company during a manufacturing process when the fuel is used by the producer in the same manufacturing activity. The main beneficiaries are the wood products industry and oil refineries.
- Repeal sales tax exemption for custom computer software$78.5M
Proposal informationThis would repeal the sales tax exemption on the service of creating custom software. The following would continue to be exempt: • Custom software services purchased for resale, • Custom software services consumed as a component of a new product produced for sale.
- Impose an excise tax on wholesale fuel$368.0M
Proposal informationThe transportation taxes would supplant general-fund money that now helps pay for school-bus transportation, freeing up more money for schools.
- Repeal sales-tax exemption on candy and gum$68.6M
Proposal informationThe Legislature repealed this tax exemption in 2010, but it was restored later that year by voters.
- Extend 50-cents-a-gallon beer-tax increase$127.6M
Proposal informationThis tax on mass-market beer, approved by lawmakers in 2010, is due to expire in June. This proposal would make the taxes permanent and extend them to small breweries.
- Eliminate preferential tax rate for resellers of prescription drugs$29.0M
Proposal informationThis would eliminate the preferential business and occupation (B&O) tax rate of 0.138 percent for resellers of prescription drugs. It instead would apply the wholesaling B&O tax rate of 0.484 percent or the retailing B&O tax rate of 0.471 percent to these activities. This tax preference was enacted to encourage out-of-state prescription drug companies to build warehouses in Washington.
- Repeal sales tax exemption on bottled water$51.5M
Proposal informationThis would repeal the sales tax exemption on sales of bottled water to consumers. The tax would apply to both portable-sized bottles and bulk bottled water sales.
- Impose carbonated-beverage tax$57.0M
Proposal informationThis 0.19-cent per ounce tax would exempt the first $10 million for producers.
- Repeal sales tax exemption for non-residents$63.7M
Proposal informationThis would would repeal the nonresident sales tax exemption. This exemption was enacted to enable Washington sellers, especially those along the Oregon border, to compete with merchants in other states that either do not levy a retail sales tax or levy a sales tax with a low rate.
- Limit sales tax exclusion for vehicle trade-ins$94.8M
Proposal informationThis would limit the exclusion of trade-in value from retail sales and use tax to $10,000 for motor vehicles, recreational vehicles, boats and other items. Currently, when someone trades in a vehicle to purchase another one, the entire trade-in value is deducted from the selling price that is subject to sales tax.
- Trim preferential B&O tax rates for most industries$66.2M
Proposal informationThis would reduce by 25 percent the value of preferential B&O tax rates for all industries except aerospace and radioactive waste cleanup by the federal government.
- Enact capital-gains tax$1.27B
Proposal informationThis proposal would set a 5 percent excise tax on capital gains, excluding the sale of a principal residence as well as the first $10,000 in gains for individuals and the first $20,000 for married couples. The proposal also would extend beer and business-and-occupation tax surcharges - due to expire next year - until the end of 2015.
- Extend business-and-occupation surcharge on service businesses$534.0M
Proposal informationA 0.3 percent B&O tax surcharge on businesses such as doctors, lawyers, accounts and hairdressers was approved by lawmakers in 2010 and is due expire in June. This proposal would extend it through 2016.
- Redirect liquor excise taxes to the state general fund$50.5M
Proposal informationThis would redirect the share of liquor taxes that goes to cities and counties to the state general fund. Local governments say they count on this money to help balance their budgets.
- Tap the state rainy day fund$575.0M
Proposal informationThis proposal would transfer up to $575 million from the state "rainy day fund," a constitutionally protected reserve that can only be tapped during economic downturns and emergencies, or by a three-fifths vote of the Legislature.