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October 27, 2011 at 10:03 AM

Gregoire outlines $2 billion in widespread budget cuts

Gov. Chris Gregoire speaks at a press conference in Olympia about budget reduction options as Legislature prepares for the upcoming special session to fill the state's budget gap. (Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times).

UPDATE:  Read the latest version of this story.

Gov. Chris Gregoire today proposed $2 billion in budget cuts that would increase class sizes in public schools, eliminate subsidized health insurance for the working poor and cut the length of supervision for inmates released from prison.

That’s just a start. In all, the governor has proposed more than 160 budget cuts ranging from $100,000 to more than $160 million.

Her suggested cuts add up to $1.65 billion. She also recommends delaying a state payment to public schools by one day, pushing $330 million of state spending into the next two-year budget. It’s an accounting trick that doesn’t actually reduce state spending.

“These budget alternatives will impact real people,” Gregoire said in a statement. “They’re all around us. They’re in our neighborhoods, on our streets, in our schools — and they have needs the state will no longer be able to meet.”

The governor noted these are recommendations, and that she’ll talk to the communities and groups that will be affected before releasing a full budget next month.

Gregoire on Thursday also issued a proclamation calling the state Legislature into special session at noon Nov. 28. The governor had earlier said she planned to call lawmakers back on that date.

Big moves recommended by Gregoire include reducing support to colleges and universities by 15 percent, saving $166 million; cutting levy equalization payments to property-poor school districts in half, saving $150 million; and increasing class sizes by two students in grades 4-12, saving $137 million.

She also suggests cutting the state’s contribution to employee health-insurance premiums.

One of things most striking about the proposal is its sheer breadth. Most of the recommended cuts are relatively small (less than $20 million) given the current $32.2 billion budget. For example, she proposes eliminating the state drug task force for a savings of $808,000.

Most of the cuts the governor outlined on Thursday have been discussed in some form previously. The state has been in a budget-cutting mode since the recession hit three years ago.

State services have been reduced across the board. The government workforce has shrunk by several thousand positions and students are their families are struggling with double-digit tuition increases lawmakers approved to make up for cuts to higher education.

“This is what our options look like even after we’ve taken the biggest steps in decades to make government leaner and more efficient,” Gregoire said in her statement. “I don’t want anyone to think that I like these options. These choices were made out of necessity.”

Gregoire’s proposed state budget cuts

Comments | More in Government | Topics: budget cuts, Gov. Chris Gregoire, State budget

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