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.