Archive for December 1, 2010
OLYMPIA — After nearly two hours behind closed doors, legislative leaders and Gov. Chris Gregoire broke their huddle over budget problems but emerged with no consensus on a special session to close at least some of a gap of $1.1 billion projected for the remainder of the fiscal year.
The only agreement seemed to be that the meeting was “productive.”
“We’re all moving in the right direction,” Sen. Joe Zarelli of Ridgefield, the Senate Republicans’ budget expert, said. But there’s no specific time table for making decisions, although his preference is “sooner rather than later.”
Democrats said they needed more time to get consensus on possible cuts. Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, said a short session that could cut “hundreds of millions” out of the budget only makes sense if they could reach an agreement. But he won’t know if that agreement is possible for his caucus until next week, when legislators are gathering for interim committee meetings.
Rep. Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, said House Democrats are also discussing different ideas for cuts.
Some of the big ticket items on lists proposed by Gregoire and Senate Republicans include the state’s Disability Lifeline program and the Basic Health Program. Scaling back or eliminating those programs could be difficult in a special session that lasts only a couple days, as Gregoire wants. And there are questions whether such major changes should be made by outgoing legislators in a lame-duck session, or the new crop of legislators elected in November, who take office next month.
But whether the cuts are made this month, or after the new Legislature meets in January, the cuts could affect to affect public schools, state colleges, services for seniors, the disabled and workers who don’t have health care benefits at their job and rely on the state for the Basic Health plan, Murray said.
“What programs I can’t answer until I talk to our members,” he said.
Because of falling revenue projections over the last three months, the state faces a gap of about $1.1 billion between the cost of programs and salaries it has on the books and the revenue it can expect to take in between now and the end of June. Gregoire ordered a 6.3 percent across-the-board reduction in October in most departments and programs not protected by the state constitution, but last month’s revenue projection suggests that’s not enough and the state needs to cut more, either this month in a special session or at the beginning of the new session before tackling a budget for 2011-13 in which revenue projections are also down.
Another meeting between Gregoire and legislative leaders is scheduled for Thursday, with more possible on Friday and Saturday.
OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire and top lesgislative leaders are meeting behind closed doors this afternoon, looking at ways to cut the state’s budget.
Some leaders are here in Olympia, while a few like Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown and Minority Leader Mike Hewitt are on conference call.
Gregoire has said she wants some agreements on what to cut before she’ll bring the Legislature back for a special session to avoid days or even weeks of little activity before the final votes. Sen. Joe Zarelli, R-Ridgefield, argued before the meeting however that she should just call them in and let public pressure keep them to on a short course.
Zarelli also released Senate Republicans’ proposals for cutting the budget. A comparison with the list suggested by Gregoire last week shows some similarities. Both would:
Tap about $205 million in federal funds for education.
Cut about $55 million by eliminating the Disability Lifeline program, which was formerly known as General Assistance/Unemployable, which are payments to some state residents who are disabled and can’t find work.
Cut about $54 million out of the Department of Corrections through staff reductions and program and prison consolidation. McNeil Island’s prison facility would be closed.
Cut about $26 million from the state’s Basic Health plan.
Make changes to the state’s levy equalization system, saving about $18 million under Gregoire’s plan and $21 million under the Senate Rs plan.
But there are some differences. Gregoire would eliminate the K-4 enhancement program, which provides smaller class sizes in the lower grades, and save $81.5 million. Senate Rs would eliminate all day kindergarten, for a savings of $22.6 million, plus eliminate or reduce some bilingual education programs.
Senate Rs also would put a five-year limit on some welfare programs, and terminate some programs for immigrants and undocumented residents.
House Republicans said they’ll release their proposals after the meeting.
OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire meets at 1:30 p.m. today with Democratic and Republican leaders of the state Senate and House to discuss the state’s budget problems and their suggested solutions.
And the prospect of a special session to address them.
Meanwhile, Senate Republicans released their list of suggested cuts. They had refused to release the list Tuesday, saying that would be up to the governor. The governor’s office said it would be up to Senate Republicans.
After a day of this “After you, Alfonse. No, no, after you Gaston”, Senate Rs finally decided to take the initiative. We’ll post their list soon.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers gave birth to an 8 pound, 4 ounce baby girl just after midnight today in Washington, D.C.
McMorris Rodgers, who is among the House Republicans’ leading users of social media, announced the birth with a message on Twitter and a Facebook post headlined “It’s a girl.”
“Brian and I are overjoyed by the birth of our daughter,” she wrote. “Both the baby and I are doing well at the hosptial.”
Their son Cole is 3 1/2. McMorris Rodgers is the first member of Congress to give birth twice while in office.