Gov. Christine Gregoire released an austere state budget proposal this morning that slashes more than $3.5 billion in funding for public schools, higher education, social services and other areas to help close the biggest budget shortfall in state history.I'd strongly recommend reading the entire recommendation [pdf] to get a sense of the uphill battle ahead.
Gregoire proposes filling the gap, projected at more than $5 billion, by making scores of cuts and using untapped pots of money, including $600 million from the state rainy-day fund.
In addition, the governor is banking that the federal government will send Washington at least $1 billion as part of an economic stimulus package.
Among the cuts proposed by Gregoire: $682 million in pay increases for state workers and teachers; $500 million in health care for children, the poor and the disabled; and $178 million in funding for Initiative I-728, which was approved by voters in 2000 to reduce class sizes in public schools.
The proposed budget also would change how state pensions are funded, and reduce contributions to the worker-retirement programs by $400 million over the next two years. No cut was too small to pursue. The governor proposes closing 13 state parks to save $5.2 million, shuttering the visitors center at the state Capitol to save $1.7 million and eliminating toll-free numbers to the state Department of Revenue to save $260,000.
The governor said the cuts were necessary, but that she "hates" the budget and expects legislators and lobbyists will as well. "There's something in there for everybody not to like."
I'll post analysis later this week.
(Oh, and it almost goes without saying that "advocacy groups" are upset.)
Added: And then there's Ryan's take.