I Wrote to Olympia

Some time ago I wrote to Olympia about the budget cuts.
They are calling this the "Great Recession"
Here is that letter:
Dear Lee:

Thank you for contacting Governor Gregoire with your budget ideas. She appreciates hearing from you.

Her proposal includes more than $2 billion in spending cuts, reductions to local revenue sharing, and fund transfers to leave a $600 million reserve fund to get us through this Great Recession. Her decisions are based upon careful consideration of many reduction alternatives previously released, including those forwarded by state agencies, recommendations by her budget and policy staff, and suggestions by state employees and the public.

No governor in modern times has weighed cuts of the magnitude she is proposing, but there is no other choice. The Great Recession has lingered longer and resulted in more job losses than any downturn since the Great Depression. It has taken an almost unprecedented toll on our economy and on state tax revenue collections. Over the past three years, we have reduced existing and projected spending by nearly $10.5 billion, but now we must cut even deeper.

We have responsibly scoured every corner of state government for savings and for better, smarter, more efficient ways of delivering only the most essential services. To this end, the Governor and her advisors drew upon the work initiated by the Transforming Washington's Budget Committee, whose members asked tough questions about the purpose of government and the most effective ways to serve citizens. She also built upon the record of reform we achieved through savings to workers' compensation, unemployment insurance, unfunded pension liabilities, consolidation of duplicative or overlapping agencies and services, and health care administration.

In this budget, where Washington has historically offered services above what is required by federal rule, we pare back. Where Washington can share costs with the beneficiaries of services, we split the bill or require a co-payment. And where Washington can no longer afford a service, we end it. It means that in just three years, we cut nearly $12 billion from our state operating budgets. In that time, we also invested $3.6 billion in federal funds through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that helped get us through the beginning of the Great Recession.

Clearly, repercussions from these actions will be felt across our great state including:

More than 1,300 low-income individuals with developmental disabilities or in long-term care will lose eligibility for personal care services; 1,000 will lose adult day health services; and 1,000 of their families will lose respite services.
More than 16,600 offenders will be under community supervision for a shorter time.
Colleges and universities will see their state support reduced by another $160 million; school districts will lose part or all of their levy equalization support; and the school year will be shortened by four days.

In this struggling economy when we have already cut so deeply, and because nearly two-thirds of the General Fund operating budget is protected from cuts by constitutional, federal, or contractual mandates, our options are limited. Accordingly, Governor Gregoire developed the budget in the following steps:

Phase 1: This past summer, when it became clear that our revenue picture was not improving, the Governor directed state agencies to submit ideas for cutting their budgets up to 10 percent. Then she diligently reviewed more than $4 billion in budget reduction alternatives. Last month, more than six weeks before her budget was due, she identified $2 billion in preliminary cuts from the longer list. The resulting proposal is an all-cuts budget, which she is required to submit.

Phase 2: When Governor Gregoire finished her preliminary cuts list, she then spent countless hours reviewing more than 150 tax revenue options submitted by the Department of Revenue or raised by citizens, interest groups, and state employees. She concluded that the consequences of some reductions would be unconscionable to the residents of our state. She determined that we must do everything we can to avoid putting our most vulnerable citizens, the future of our students, and our safety at risk. Governor Gregoire proposes a referendum to the voters for a temporary?"three year?"one-half cent increase in the state sales tax to:

Preserve services to people with developmental disabilities and those who need long-term care;
Prevent further reductions to our kindergarten-through-12th grade and higher education systems; and
Ensure that offenders are kept behind bars or under community supervision.

Her plan also provides revenue alternatives, worth $59 million, that the Legislature can pass with a simple majority vote, as well as nearly a dozen additional revenue alternatives, worth $282 million, that require a two-thirds vote by the Legislature. She also added a prioritized list of cuts that she believes should be restored first if the Legislature approves new tax revenue.

Phase 3: The Governor and her staff will continue reviewing additional ideas for reforming government submitted by state employees, the Transforming Washington's Budget Committee, and the public.

She appreciates that as difficult as it was for her to make these decisions, it will be even more challenging for the 147 members of the Legislature to reach an agreement. Most importantly, Governor Gregoire knows that we must all work together for a timely resolution for the citizens and businesses of Washington.

Thanks again for your important input.

Sincerely,

Constituent Services
Office of Governor Christine O. Gregoire

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