Budget cut highlights
Highlights of some of the cuts suggested in Gov. Chris Gregoire’s budget proposal:
HIGHER EDUCATION: Gregoire proposes a $300 million reduction in higher education, including a 13 percent reduction for the state’s research and regional institutions. Community and technical colleges would see a 6 percent cut. This could mean higher tuition, fewer courses, larger class sizes, and reduction in faculty. Raises for faculty and staff also are suspended.
K-12 EDUCATION: Suspends nearly a quarter of the money from the voter-approved initiative to ensure smaller class sizes, and suspends the entirety of another initiative for cost-of-living raises for teachers. Maintained is $12.2 billion for basic education services, like special education and transportation, which is protected.
PUBLIC SAFETY: Gregoire proposes eliminating the requirement to supervise misdemeanor criminals and low-risk felony offenders once they are released from prison, saving nearly $70 million. Sex offenders and violent criminals would still fall under supervision. She also proposes early release for elderly and ill criminals, and deporting non-citizens who have property or drug offenses.
HUMAN SERVICES: Gregoire suggests saving $160 million by eliminating grants to people in the General Assistance-Unemployable program. About 21,000 people, as well as 6,500 people in a program for alcoholism and drug addiction, would stop receiving assistance. Another proposal would discontinue the Adult Day Health program, which serves about 1,900 elderly and adults with developmental disabilities, saving about $20 million. The federal government will stop providing matching funds for that program in June.
HEALTH CARE: Gregoire wants to continue providing access to health care for low-income residents, but is calling for a $252 million reduction in the state basic health plan, a 42 percent reduction. Medical coverage would also be eliminated for those in the general assistance-unemployable program, and the state would no longer purchase vaccines for children not covered by Medicaid. Also suspended would be subsidized health care for children whose family incomes are between 250 and 300 percent of the federal poverty level.
PUGET SOUND: Gregoire is seeking more than $284 million for Puget Sound recovery projects, including hatchery production and toxic prevention and cleanup. But she suggests closing 13 state parks, and closing other state parks during off-peak winter months. She also calls for eliminating money for geologic hazard studies on slope stability and tsunami evacuation routes.
TRANSPORTATION: Gregoire is seeking about $985 million for transportation projects and maintenance around the state, as well as $125 million for congestion relief efforts. But she’s seeking to eliminate the Sidney, British Columbia-San Juan ferry route by the end of September to save more than $9 million. An additional $1.3 million in savings would come from switching from a 48-auto passenger ferry to a 34-auto passenger vessel on the Point Defiance-Tahlequah route.
OTHER CUTS: Closing the state visitor center, and halting the training of National Guard members as firefighters, since they’ve been deployed overseas.