Gov. Chris Gregoire’s proposed “all cuts, no new taxes” budget was described as everything from a good starting point to an unrealistic plan Wednesday in a Spokane forum. But even Gregoire’s own legislative liaison made clear it is far from a done deal.
Democratic leaders told the Greater Spokane Inc. Legislative Forum the budget, which state law requires the governor to produce before the session starts in January, said they don’t agree with all the cuts being proposed. The spending plan largely eliminates the Basic Health Plan for low income residents, health care for children, and changes school funding formulas.
“She’s laid out a blue print, not exactly a map,” Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown of Spokane said.
“I will reject the idea there is some kind of trick here…just because she’s so in favor of taxes.”
Neither Brown nor House Speaker Frank Chopp of Seattle would rule out the possibility of an increased sales tax to keep from eliminating some programs.
“You need to go through the steps and see where you are,” Chopp said. “We’re not ruling anything out.”
House Republican Floor Leader Doug Ericksen of Ferndale said the state needs to reverse the priorities of government concept, which arranges what’s most important, and look at the things that are least important or that it does poorly. He suggested letting private business take over liquor stores, prisons and ferries.
The state is going to have to reduce the amount it spends, Senate Republican Caucus Chairwoman Linda Evans Parlette of Wenatchee said. “We have to learn to save for a rainy day.”
Asked by forum moderator Denny Heck if Republicans would submit their own competing budget that finds some $2.6 billion in cuts to make up for the expected revenue shortfall, Ericksen said they likely would not. They couldn’t hold hearings needed because they don’t control the committees, and don’t have the staff to draft a complete budget.