Outgoing Washington Governor Christine Gregoire unveiled the last budget proposal of her term Tuesday, calling for what her office describes as "a balanced solution to the [projected $900 million] shortfall -- one that will preserve essential services, help rebuild a healthy budget reserve and keep the state moving toward recovery."
Making education funding a top priority - and specifically adhering to the state Supreme Court's McCleary decision - Gregoire's budget proposes a higher fuel tax, higher taxes on candy, soda and gum, and the extension of select taxes on beer and businesses to make the numbers jibe.
While incoming governor Jay Inslee has said he's against raising general taxes, in her proposal this morning Gregoire says the consequences of a no-new-revenue budget would be too severe for the state to stomach, and would "likely hinder the the state's economic recovery." However, the taxes Gregoire proposes extending already exist - most are just scheduled to expire soon.
"As is required by law, Governor Gregoire prepared a budget that relies only on existing revenue. But such a budget would require cutting deeper into higher education, sharply reducing levy equalization support to local school districts and eliminating basic services such as the State Food Assistance Program. After reviewing those options, the Governor is convinced a no-new-revenue budget would have unacceptable consequences for people across the state. What's more, it would likely hinder the state's economic recovery," materials released by Gregoire's office state. "Instead, Governor Gregoire is proposing a balanced solution to the shortfall -- one that will preserve essential services, help rebuild a healthy budget reserve and keep the state moving toward recovery. Built through the Priorities of Government budget process, her plan includes significant new spending reductions and savings through reforms. But it also relies on modest revenue solutions."
Addressing the state Supreme Court's McCleary decision, Gregoire's budget calls for "$1 billion in sustainable basic education investments over the next two years." Overall, Gregoire says 80 percent of the new spending she proposes goes toward education.
In terms of cuts, Gregoire's budget is not without them. Citing state revenue that's not projected to return to 2008 levels until 2014, and revenue growth that's not expected to keep pace with the costs of state services, Gregoire says her final budget proposal "saves $360 million by again suspending teacher cost-of-living pay raises required under Initiative 732 and banks another $14 million by delaying implementation of the state's paid family leave law."
In addition, Gregoire says her budget "makes tens of millions of dollars in additional cuts to dozens of state programs," impacting areas like the Economic Development Commission, grants for local watershed planning, and axing roughly $57 million from local government programs.
Gregoire's office breaks down her last budget proposal in depth on the Office of Financial Management website. On the following page you'll find some of the pertinent information and documents included.