Gov. Chris Gregoire’s proposed all-cuts, no-new-taxes budget – far from a done deal – was described as everything from a good starting point to an unrealistic plan Wednesday in a Spokane forum.
Democratic leaders told the Greater Spokane Inc. Legislative Forum they don’t agree with all the cuts proposed in the budget, which state law requires the governor to produce before the legislative session starts in January.
The plan largely eliminates the Basic Health Plan for low-income residents and health care for children, and it changes school funding formulas.
“She’s laid out a blueprint, not exactly a map,” said Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, of Spokane.
“I will reject the idea there is some kind of trick here … just because she’s so in favor of taxes.”
Neither Brown nor House Speaker Frank Chopp, of Seattle, would rule out the possibility of a higher sales tax to save some programs.
“You need to go through the steps and see where you are,” Chopp said. “We’re not ruling anything out.”
House Republican Floor Leader Doug Ericksen, of Ferndale, said the state needs to reverse the priorities of government and look at the things that are least important or that it does poorly.
He suggested letting private business take over liquor stores, prisons and ferries.
The state will have to reduce the amount it spends, said Senate Republican Caucus Chairwoman Linda Evans Parlette, of Wenatchee.
“We have to learn to save for a rainy day,” she said.
Asked by forum moderator Denny Heck if Republicans would submit their own budget that finds some $2.6 billion in cuts to make up for the expected revenue shortfall, Ericksen said they probably wouldn’t.
They couldn’t hold the necessary hearings because they don’t control the committees, and they don’t have the staff to draft a complete budget.
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