Eye On Olympia

A closer look at the budget moving swiftly through the statehouse...

It's clear from reviewing the proposed budget documents that in addition to major changes for schools, colleges, social services and health care, budget writers also did some work with the fiscal equivalent of a scalpel, trimming spending on things like the governor's bodyguards, classes on robots, and the flower plantings around the state capitol.

"No one was spared the pain," said House budget writer Rep. Kelli Linville, D-Bellingham. The bodyguard budget was reduced by $190,000. The flowers were cut $42,000. And the robot class will be ended, saving $300,000.

Gone also is a "teak surfing" awareness program to tell people that it's foolish to hang onto the back of a speeding motorboat. It will be replaced by a sticker warning would-be teak surfers about carbon monoxide.

Some things were added. Lawmakers set aside $642,000, for example, to open the Eastern Washington Veterans' Cemetery on Memorial Day 2010.

Here's a look at where some of the chips fell. Except where noted, the numbers are compared to the previous state budget.

K-12 Education:
-Schools and teachers will lose more than $1.1 billion, compared to the cost of continuing existing services. That includes $388 million in planned cost-of-living increases. And
-Student Achievement  Program dollars will drop dramatically, from $870 million to $304 million.

Many smaller things were also cut.

School safety planning grants will be eliminated, saving $1.6 million. Also gone: "anti-bias training and cultural competency training" for staffers, which cost $650,000. A non-violence leadership program was spiked, saving $442,000, as was a $292,000 program to teach students about their civil liberties. Youth suicide prevention was cut 30 percent.

-Levy equalization, which sends state dollars to poor districts, will be cut $60 million, or about 15 percent. Republicans, who say this is a body blow to many rural districts, tried unsuccessfully Friday night to put that money back into the budget.

-Taxes: For 78 districts which cannot collect some voter-approved dollars because their property taxes are too high, lawmakers plan to lift the limit and let them collect another $74 million.

-Some school programs will grow. Special education will get 24 percent more dollars, largely due to federal help. Gifted education will get 10 percent more.

-A recently-won $8 million allocation for library services will also be eliminated. Also gone: $3.5 million to pay for math coaches and $600,000 to help schools buy local farmers' fruits and vegetables.

Washington State University:

-WSU will get about $5 million more than it did in the previous budget, but about $55 million less than continuing the same operations as-is would actually cost. That's about 10 percent. After factoring in a tuition hike of nearly 30 percent over the next two years, plus federal stimulus dollars, budget writers say funding for core academic services at WSU will be reduced about 7 percent. The tuition increases would be about $900 a year.

"We are fully aware of the economic difficulties facing our state and nation," WSU President Elson Floyd said in a written statement. ""Under those fiscal conditions, the Legislature did the best it possibly could do to protect higher education."

Floyd said the college will announce its cost-cutting proposals May 1.

But the budget gives some indications of what's likely to happen. To make up the gap, lawmakers expect WSU to cut non-instructional programs up to 20 percent. The budget also says WSU expects up to 50 percent reductions in its extension services, like 4H, master gardening and small business development centers. Lawmakers are telling WSU to minimize cuts to agricultural extensions.

WSU is also likely, lawmakers say, to make changes like reducing library hours, groundskeeping and state-sponsored agricultural research.

Eastern Washington University:

-Eastern would get $3 million less than in the previous budget, which is about $13 million short of the projected cost of maintaining those services as-is. With a 30 percent tuition increase and federal help, the cut works out to about 6.5 percent. The tuition hike is about $630 a year.

Community colleges:
-After tuition increases and federal dollars, all community colleges would see about a 6 percent cut compared to the cost of maintaining things as-is in the previous budget. The colleges could raise tuition up to 7 percent a year, meaning about $280.

Health and mental health:
-Adult family homes, nursing homes, group homes for the elderly and disabled will all get 3 percent to 4 percent less.
-Mental health regional support networks will get 3.5 percent less than expected.
-Low-income drug and alcohol treatment will be reduced $12 million.
-Non-emergency health care for people who aren't citizens will be reduced $14 million.
-In-home care hours will be reduced for the elderly and disabled, saving $19 million.

Law enforcement:
-Lawmakers want more probation violators to serve time under house arrest instead of jail. If a quarter of those offenders are sentence to home detention instead of a cell, they say, the state would save $11 million.
-The budget also calls for deporting all non-citizen drug- and property offenders, saving $10 million.
-Lawmakers also plan to reduce programs for prisoners about to re-enter the community: alcohol and drug treatment, classes, mental health services, sex offender treatment and job training. They estimate the cuts will save $8 million.




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