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Tuesday, October 20, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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No money for state agency assessments

OLYMPIA – The state attorney general’s office will weigh in on a potential fight between the Legislature and the executive branch over the meaning of three little words: “within available funds.” The words appear twice in a 2005 statute that requires state agencies to develop “quality management systems” to help figure out ways to do their jobs better. Most agencies have never done such assessments because the deadlines were delayed and then the recession hit and budgets tightened.

Washington facing slow recovery

OLYMPIA – Washington’s economic outlook barely changed over the last four months as the state’s few bright spots – jobs in aerospace and software – were all but canceled by pending national and international problems. The state continues to experience a slow recovery, State Economist Steve Lerch told the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council on Wednesday. If current projections hold, it sees an extra $156 million in its main budget – about one-half of 1 percent of a $30.4 billion budget – that wasn’t available when the Legislature approved a spending plan in April.

Washington budget director urges state cuts

OLYMPIA – Washington state can’t wait until next year to cut its budget, the state’s budget director told legislators Monday. In the wake of recent comments by legislators that cast doubt on the prospects for significant budget revisions in this month’s special legislative session, Office of Financial Management Director Marty Brown said the state currently spends $41 million per day.

Panel rejects liquor plans

OLYMPIA – It’s apparently all in or all out for Washington state’s involvement in the liquor business. After studying two proposals to take over the state’s liquor distribution system, the Office of Financial Management is calling for a pass on both. Voters could still order that system sold, and remove the state’s involvement in wholesale and retail liquor sales, by passing Initiative 1183.

State wants employees to pay more for health care

OLYMPIA – Gov. Chris Gregoire wants state employees to pay more for their health insurance, and is asking union leaders to reopen labor contracts. Their initial response: Not unless businesses give up some tax breaks. In a letter to the unions, Office of Financial Management Director Marty Brown cites the projected imbalance of $1.4 billion between state revenues and scheduled state expenses in General Fund programs as the reason.

State asks agencies to prepare for cuts

OLYMPIA – State agencies will prepare plans to cut their spending by as much as 10 percent as Washington braces for the prospect that the next state economic forecast could be worse than the last one. Orders were sent Monday to agencies that rely on the state’s general fund to identify what they would cut if their budget was reduced by 5 percent, and what they would cut if it was dropped another 5 percent beyond that.

Governor’s proposed capital budget leaves off Spokane medical school

OLYMPIA – A new medical school building in Spokane is not on the list of large construction projects being proposed by Gov. Chris Gregoire for the next two years, a group of government and business leaders from Eastern Washington was told Wednesday. Marty Brown, the state’s director of the Office of Financial Management, told Spokane-area residents in Olympia on a lobbying trip that the proposed Riverpoint Biomedical and Health Sciences Building, with its $70.8 million price tag, was a good project that didn’t make the list for the proposed 2011-’13 capital budget sent to the Legislature.

$1.2 billion shortfall looms for Washington

OLYMPIA – The state is still being buffeted by the “Great Recession” and will have about $1.2 billion less than previously expected through mid-2013, Arun Raha, the state’s chief economist said Thursday. Raha called the forecast grim. State leaders suggested the looming gap between scheduled expenses and expected revenue is so large that the Legislature may need a special session next month to help balance the books through June, then start new rounds of cuts in January for the budget that covers the next two years.

State workers’ health benefits at issue

OLYMPIA – Gov. Chris Gregoire wants state workers to pay up to 26 percent of their health insurance premiums next year, part of a hold-the-line contract offer that will include no pay raises. One other option in the offer is for workers to keep paying 12 percent of health premiums but accept even higher out-of-pocket costs that already went up in January.

Washington state furlough law enacted

OLYMPIA – Thousands of state workers will take 10 days off without pay over the next 14 months under a law signed Tuesday by Gov. Chris Gregoire. The new law is a cost-cutting measure approved by the Legislature in the face of a $2.8 billion shortfall in the state’s general fund. The furloughs could cut some $50 million in wage and salary expenses from the general fund and $86 million overall.