Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Washington Democrats reveal budget plan

Posted By on Tue, Feb 21, 2012 at 4:51 PM

The majority House Democrats launched their budget plan today to close the $1 billion state deficit.

The plan, which would be carried out by the end of the 2012 legislative session, calls for cuts in higher education, social and health services, inmate supervision, parks, state archives and other programs.

It proposes to shift $405 million in K-12 payments into the next biennium, creating a few new taxes and shedding some revenue-sharing with local government.

“The budget plan released by the House Democrats today is a good start on addressing our shortfall and while we are still reviewing the details, it appears to prioritize critical education programs which are essential to our state’s future,” said Governor Chris Gregoire in a statement about the plan. “I’m pleased this budget leaves a sizable ending-fund balance as we must continue to plan for unforeseen circumstances.”

The budget cuts the state payroll by $1,554, including about 900 layoffs due to voter approval of a 2011 initiative privatizing liquor retail. However the plan does not “cut salaries of state workers and teachers or charge them more for their health coverage,” said a statement released by the Office of Secretary of State.

“It’s a workable solution that doesn’t do long-term harm to our state,” says House budget chairman Ross Hunter in a statement. “What is obvious is that we can no longer afford many existing expenditures.”

Funding for higher education would be cut by $65 million, with $35 million from community colleges and $30 million from four-year colleges.

“I look forward to the Senate’s proposal — and urge both chambers, and both parties, to move quickly toward final passage of a budget that continues to prioritize education,” says Gregoire.

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