OLYMPIA — School districts around the state might have to “eat” a cut in teacher salaries proposed by Senate budget writers rather than lower pay, Gov. Chris Gregoire warned Wednesday afternoon.
She said some aspects of the Senate general operating budget proposal are improvements over the House spending plan released last week, but the Senate's plan to cut $251 million by cutting public school employee salaries by 3 percent won't work.
“Many of the school districts have already negotiated their contracts, so their salaries are already set,” Gregoire said. “The districts will simply have to eat” the reductions by cutting their budgets in other places.
The Senate also estimates almost $100 million can be saved by keeping better track of truancy in schools. It's a creative approach, but “if it doesn't work, they're going to eat another $100 million,” Gregoire said.
But the latest spending plan is free of gimmicks, the governor said. She's been skeptical of a House plan to sell or lease the state's wholesale liquor distribution system as a way to raise some $300 million in revenue.
She wouldn't say that either the Senate public school provisions or the House liquor warehouse provisions were deal breakers.
“We're now in the negotiating stage. We're not in the vetoing stage,” she said.