State Senate budget plan would cut $3.8B — education takes a hit
Senate Democrats delivered on promises to slash state spending when they released their proposed budget this morning, and public education is apparently one the hardest hit areas with more than $1 billion in proposed cuts.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Senate's proposed state budget cuts
• Cut nearly 45,000 low income citizens off of pay-as-you-go health insurance.
• Suspend voter approved Initiative 732 that provides teachers with cost of living raises and slashes Initiative 728, which reduced class sizes in public schools, by 93 percent.
• Eliminate salary increases for state management staff and higher health-care costs for teachers and state employees.
• Reduce about 10,000 slots for college students at colleges and universities.
• Close McNeil Island prison and Green Hill juvenile detention center.
• Keep all state parks open through a voluntary $5 dollar donation program at time of vehicle registration.
Source: Washington state Senate
OLYMPIA — Senate Democrats delivered on a promise to slash state spending, unveiling a proposed budget this morning that includes more than $1.3 billion in cuts to public schools and higher education.
Budget documents indicate cuts of $877 million for public schools. Lawmakers would reduce funding for Initiative I-728, which was approved by voters in 2000 to reduce class sizes; trim levy equalization money for property-poor districts, and cut spending for other programs. Exact cuts by category were not immediately available.
Higher education would be cut by about $513 million, but some of that would be offset by tuition increases. Four-year institutions would be allowed to increase tuition for resident undergraduate students by 7 percent and two-year colleges by 5 percent.
The budget also would eliminate pay increases for state workers and teachers and reduce health-care for the poor.
The cuts total about $3.8 billion.
Budget writers say the reductions would eliminate about 10,000 slots for students at state colleges and universities, close the McNeil Island prison and Green Hill juvenile detention center, and result in about 8,000 layoffs among state employees.
The state also would sell three airplanes used by Gov. Chris Gregoire, state Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark and the State Patrol, according Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina.
The cuts, along with $3 billion in federal stimulus money, use of state reserves, and some budget reductions made earlier by lawmakers, are intended to fill a $9 billion state budget shortfall between now and mid-2011.
Overall, the proposed 2009-11 budget would spend about $1 billion less than the current state spending plan, due to the dramatic decrease in tax collections as the recession deepens. However, that $1 billion decrease doesn't include the $3 billion in federal stimulus money the state will use to backfill the budget.
"Today is a sobering day for our state," Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, said in a written statement. "We're doing what none of us came to Olympia to do, and that is to introduce a budget that cuts more public services than any lawmakers in state history."
The Senate's budget also would reduce contributions to the worker-retirement programs by $411 million over the next two years.
The budget includes proposals to eliminate certain tax breaks, such as a real estate tax exemption for sales of property by financial institutions when the property was obtained through foreclosure. That would raise $54 million. It's not clear yet how the Senate proposes doing this, given a state law that requires a two-thirds vote in the Legislature or a vote of the people to increase taxes.
Overall, the Senate is proposing a 2009-11 spending plan worth $32.1 billion, including about $850 million in reserves. The current two-year budget, after some steps were taken to reduced spending, is about $33.2 billion.
However the cuts go deeper than those figures would indicate. Overall, the Senate budget cuts spending by about $3.8 billion.
Most of the cuts are reductions in proposed increases in spending.
Simply put, it generally costs more each year to provide the same level of state services, due to inflation, population increases and other factors.
For example, when more children enroll in public schools, the state must pay for their basic education as required in the state Constitution. Washington currently is seeing a spike in enrollment, in part, some officials think, because many financially strapped parents are pulling their kids out of private school.
In addition, the state, like the private sector, has to deal with increased health-care costs and wage increases.
The net effect is a reduction in state services provided because the state can't afford the increased costs of doing business.
Andrew Garber: firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-236-8268
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
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