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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Eye On Olympia

Gregoire re: state budget: Freeze hiring and cut gasoline consumption 5 percent…

Gov. Chris Gregoire is calling on state agency heads, colleges and other statewide elected officials to stop filling new staff vacancies and to cut the gasoline used by state vehicles, among other budget-trimming moves.

"Even though Washington's economy remains healthy, a weakening national economy has affected us," Gregoire wrote in a memo sent to state agency directors. The high cost of food and gasoline are being felt by all, she said, including the state.

"We must continue our aggressive reduction of fuel consumption to ease the burden on our budget," she wrote.

To mitigate the unexpected costs of high gas prices "and a continued softening of the national economy," Gregoire wrote, she's calling for:

-a halt to filling new staff vacancies,
-a 5 percent reduction in gas use compared to last year,
-a freeze on non-emergency out-of-state travel,
-holding off on buying non-essential new equipment
-and freezing non-emergency contracts with consultants, etc.

State general-fund spending, which rose 31 percent during Gregoire's four years, is Exhibit A for Republicans trying to unseat Gregoire, a Democrat. So Republican challenger Dino Rossi was quick to say that Gregoire's not going far enough.

"I'm glad that Governor Gregoire has started to recognize the budget crisis she's created," Rossi said. As governor, he said, he'd cut staff at the governor's office, freeze salaries for gubernatorial appointees and halt salary negotiations with state employee groups over pay increases until the budget picture's clearer.

The Washington Policy Center's Jason Mercier posted the memo here.

Note: This post has been changed to reflect a little mental dyslexia on my part. Rossi said he'd cut the governor's office budget, not the governor's budget office. Mea culpa.

Short takes and breaking news from the Washington Legislature and the state capital.