OLYMPIA — A $32.4 billion spending plan, which would cut colleges, public schools, social services and employee salaries, not raise taxes and try to sell the state's liquor distribution center was released today by House Democrats.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Ross Hunter, D-Medina, called it “thoughtful, responsible and sustainable,” but still full of bad news for people involved in state programs.
“I wish the budget we're about to present to you had more good news. It does not,” Hunter said as the 450-page budget, and several summaries were released.
It proposed cuts including:
$482 million in higher education institutions, which the colleges will be able to offset in part through higher tuition.
$362 less for increases to retired state employees on the state's oldest pension plans.
$216 million from programs to have smaller class sizes in Kindergarten through Grade 4
$177 million less for wages for state employees.
$108 million less for the state's Basic Health plan by shrinking the income a family can have to qualify for the plan.
$100 million less for the Disability Lifeline program, getting rid of cash grants but substituting some of the loss money with vouchers for housing.
It has no money for cost-of-living increases for teachers, which are mandated by a statewide initiative in 2000, and does not reduce class sizes in public schools, also required by voters in an separate initiative that same year.
It proposes the state sell its liquor distribution center for $300 million, if it can get an offer from private industry to do that. Hunter said that's been proposed, and the state has had some inquiries that suggest it's possible. If not, the state would have to cut another $300 million in spending.
What the budget does not have is any proposal to levy a new tax, raise an existing tax or close a tax exemption already on the books. House Democrats said they don't believe it's possible to get the required two-thirds majority for any tax increase.
“We're making the most responsible decisions we can in difficult times,” House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, said.
Programs the state can no longer afford remain on life support, and the footprint of government continues to be larger than our taxpayers and economy can support,” Rep. Gary Alexander of Olympia, the ranking Republican on Ways and Means said. “I've seen go-home budgets before and this is not one of them.”
Adam Glickman of the Service Employees International Union which represents some healt care workers said the budget comes down hardest on some of the state's lowest paid workers. Michael Itti of the League of Education Voters, which tracks school issues said the budget means students will continue to struggle or and a generation of college students will be facing “crippling amounts of debt.”