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Gregoire calls special session for Nov. 28

THURSDAY, SEPT. 22, 2011, 10:42 A.M.

OLYMPIA — The Legislature will spend the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas trying to cut as much as $2 billion out of the state’s budget.

Gov. Chris Gregoire said today she will call legislators into a special session, which by law can last as long as 30 days, starting Nov. 28.

Before they get to Olympia, Gregoire said she will present them with a plan to cut programs and keep the state from ending the 2011-13 fiscal cycle in the red. That plan will be a starting point, but legislators will have to hold hearings and adopt legislation, so it’s not a problem that can be handled in a single day, like the special session last December.

The timing is tied to the next state revenue forecast, due on Nov. 17, which the state’s chief economist, Arun Raha, has told state officials is much more likely to be down, rather than up.

Last week in his official September forecast, Raha said the state was likely to have $1.4 billion less than legislators thought when they drew up the 2011-13 general fund budget. Just cutting that $1.4 billion out of the budget would leave the state’s general fund with no reserves, Gregoire said; she’ll ask legislators to come up with $2 billion.

“Everything is on the table,” Gregoire said at a morning press conference. Asked if she’d propose any tax increases, the governor said that is “premature.”

“I’m not talking revenue now,” she said.

Although some liberal groups have called for the state to raise taxes by closing some exemptions for businesses, Gregoire said most such proposals don’t raise enough money and would lose the jobs those exemptions were enacted to stimulate.

“Somebody will have to show me $2 billion I can get passed in the Legislature,” she said. “Frankly, someone will have to show me $2 million.”

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