OLYMPIA — A budget plan referred to as a $254 million installment in the state's fiscal crisis passed the state Senate this morning on a bipartisan vote.
The plan achieves some of its savings by retroactively cutting support of smaller classes for kindergarten through 4th Grade across the state, reductions in the state's Basic Health Care, Children's Health Program and Disability Lifeline. It now goes to the House, which has passed a spending plan with about $30 million less in cuts. Along with the quarter-billion dollars in cuts, the plan moves another $122 million from other state funds into the General Fund Operating Budget, which pays for the widest array of state programs and services.
The budget proposal, which was negotiated by the two parties budget leaders, passed on a 38-9 bipartisan vote. But it wasn't without its critics.
Among those voting no was freshman Sen. Mike Baumgartner, R-Spokane, who said the proposal doesn't go far enough.
“It didn't solve the entire problem. This budget crisis should have been solved long ago,” Baumgartner said.
Leaders of the budget committee acknowledged they had more cuts to make to keep the state from ending its biennium on June 30 in the red.
“It's not a solution to the crisis we're in, it's an installment on the way to that solution,” Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, said. “This fiscal crisis is not subsiding any time soon.”
Sen. Joe Zarelli, R-Ridgefield, the ranking Republican on the Ways and Means Committee, said policy discussions on the long-term future of many state programs will occur when the Legislature tackles a two-year spending plan for a budget period that begins July 1: “Today we're just talking about how do we balance the books at the end of the year.”
Even if the proposed cuts worth $254 million pass the House and are signed by Gov. Chris Gregoire, the state will still need to find another $200 million or so in savings. That could mean more cuts, or some accounting procedures that move money between different funds or delaying a large payment due on June 30 for one day.