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Gregoire releases 2011-13 budget

by JASON MERCIER | December 16, 2010

As a result of the economic climate and the voters' passage of I-1053 (2/3 requirement for tax increases) major changes are coming to the way the state spends money. This fact became crystal clear today at the Governor's budget press conference. Describing her 2011-13 budget proposal, Governor Gregoire said:

"We must not only cut, we must restructure, modernize, prioritize and position our state as a 21st century government. It's not just about this crisis - it's about setting our state on a trajectory that ensures a strong financial foundation for our kids and grandkids. This is a budget that builds the platform for better service and recovery in the years to come."

While there is something for everyone to dislike about the Governor's proposal she has succeeded in putting forth a budget that radically changes the way the state does business while at the same time moving forward with some long overdue reforms.

Describing how she built her proposal Gregoire said at her press conference:

"This budget began with the Priorities of Government process and identifying essential services. We used our Government Management, Accountability and Performance Program-GMAP- to identify programs that deliver results for taxpayer dollars.

And this summer, we launched the Transforming Washington's Budget process. We asked every state agency to answer eight questions, beginning with, 'Is this an essential state service?'

We asked whether it could be done by someone else, if it could be funded differently, or paid for by user fees, and whether we could make the program more efficient or require performance incentives . . .

There are positive changes. This budget will create a leaner, more effective state government- better positioned to deliver for Washingtonians in the 21st century.

It eliminates, consolidates and streamlines to ensure we stretch the dollars we have. It demands performance and withholds funding to ensure it happens. It calls for a users-pay policy rather than having taxpayers foot the bills.

It's a budget that I hope gets us through the current cycle of constant cutting, special sessions, and revised revenue forecasts. It represents shared sacrifice, which is what we need to make it through tough times."

Among the changes proposed:

  • eliminate 2012 Presidential Primary
  • require all state audits to be paid for from the dedicated performance audit account
  • eliminate state tourism development program
  • eliminate disability lifeline unemployable
  • eliminate children's health program
  • eliminate basic health plan
  • eliminate state family planning grants
  • close McNeil Island corrections center
  • eliminate dedicated auto theft program
  • freeze K-12 salary step increases
  • eliminate K-4 class size reduction
  • suspend I-728 (class size initiative)
  • suspend I-732 (automatic teacher pay raises)
  • eliminate state arts commission
  • close Washington state historical societies
  • reduce state employee salaries by 3% through unpaid furloughs

As for that 3% salary reduction, according to the Washington Federation of State Employees:

"All employees would have a temporary pay cut of 3 percent from July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2013. In return, employees would get paid time off equal to 5.2 hours a month. Employees would have great flexibility in when they can use this paid 'Temporary Salary Reduction' leave.

The agreement also includes the recent 15 percent health care settlement.

The agreement also preserves step increases, call back pay and assignment pay - all of which the state originally wanted to freeze or cut . . .

Under the temporary salary reduction plan, employees earning less than $2,500 a month full-time equivalent salary or $30,000 a year would be exempt from the 3 percent cuts (and of course would not receive Temporary Salary Reduction Leave).

The 3 percent reduction does not apply to overtime or for cashouts of vacation leave and sick leave.

The agreement also includes a 'trigger' that if state revenues increase 3 percent in the November 2012 revenue forecast, then the temporary salary reduction would drop to 2 percent on Jan. 1, 2013 and the temporary salary reduction leave would go proportionately to 3.5 hours a month."

While these compensation reductions are at least a small step in the right direction, the fact remains that the Legislature should have the authority to weigh all spending requests equally in the context of the priorities of all taxpayers and citizens and not be cut out of budget decisions totaling hundreds of millions of dollars.

Even with the spending reductions proposed today, state spending would still increase by $1.7 billion under the Governor's 2011-13 budget. 

Combined with her other announcements this week for pension reforms and agency consolidation, Governor Gregoire's budget represents a good framework for the Legislature to debate how best to move Washington forward in a sustainable, core-function focused way.

Filed Under : 2011 News, Employee Benefits, Spending Cuts

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