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Gregoire Proposes 6 Percent Cut

Gov. Chris Gregoire, today, Dec. 18,  unveiled her proposed budget for the 2009-11 biennium and while Shoreline Community College and the state’s other community and technical colleges would see cuts, they are not nearly as deep as feared. http://www.governor.wa.gov/priorities/budget/default.asp

 

In announcing a reduction of 6 percent for all CTC’s, Gregoire acknowledged the critical role community and technical colleges do and will play in helping the state recover from the current financial crisis. Gregoire also announced cuts of 13 percent for the state’s four-year institutions. She said CTC’s were spared a harder hit because their budgets have less room to cut before impacting people.

 

While 6 percent is difficult, all community colleges had been told earlier this fall to begin planning on cutting 20 percent from their budgets for the coming two-year funding cycle.

 

“While not qualifying as good news, this budget not as bad as we were anticipating,” SCC President Lee Lambert said Thursday. “Gov.Gregoire also clearly acknowledged what we know, that community colleges are key in getting this state back on its feet.”

 

State Board of Community and Technical Colleges Executive Director Charlie Earl said Wednesday, before the Governor’s budget was announced, that he and state board staff would have some initial assessment of the budget impact to colleges by the end of today, Thursday, Dec. 18.

 

“A lot of work went into determining what a 20 percent cut might do to our college,” Lambert said. “Clearly, we’ll give the same care to examining the implications of a 6 percent reduction.”

 

Gregoire also proposed a supplemental budget for the balance of the current biennium, which ends June 30, 2009. As anticipated by Shoreline, it calls for a 4.1 percent cut in remaining spending.

 

Gregoire’s proposals will now go to the Legislature, which convenes Jan. 12, 2009. The Legislature is responsible for passing a supplemental and biennial budget that the Governor then would sign.

 

Below is an e-mail Gov. Gregoire sent to all state employees:

 

From: Governor Christine Gregoire [mailto:Governor.ChristineGregoire@GOVERNOR.WA.GOV]

Sent: Thursday, December 18, 2008 9:40 AM

To: ALL-STATE-EMPLOYEES@LISTSERV.WA.GOV

Subject: My Proposed Budget

 

Dear Fellow State Employee:

 

Today, I released my two-year budget proposal to the 2009 State Legislature.  I advocated that we tighten our belts just like Washington families and businesses are doing.  I did this for one simple reason:  we must.

 

 

Like 42 other states, our state is in uncharted financial territory.  We are all living the consequences of a very recent economic meltdown that began in the mismanaged credit markets and spread throughout the nation’s economy.

 

We took responsible steps to address economic challenges before they were evident.  In 2007, I proposed and the voters passed a constitutionally protected “rainy day fund” to help us prepare for future downturns.  We immediately began putting money in this account, which now sits at just under $430 million.  We also left one of the largest budget surpluses in state history at the end of the last legislative session.

 

Then, starting last summer, I asked for a hiring freeze, belt-tightening and other steps throughout state government to cut costs and position us better for the new two-year budget.  You stepped up, and the hard work we did together eased the budget problem we now face.  I appreciate your attention and your ideas on how to make government work better.  Please keep those ideas coming.

 

But even the best economists failed to predict the severity of this downturn.  The fact is, this is no ordinary recession.  Its impacts have swamped our budget, leaving us with a budget shortfall of $5.7 billion for the 2009–11 budget.  The shortfall is a little more than the entire budgets for higher education and the Department of Corrections combined.

 

Consider the difficulty of our problem:  Sixty percent of the budget comprises items we are required to fund, such as basic education, federally mandated Medicaid, pensions and debt service.  This forces us to make up that $5.7 billion through cuts in the remaining 40 percent.

 

In writing this budget, we began with a basic premise:  now is not the time to be raising taxes on our residents and businesses.  These are hard times for everyone.  Our families are struggling.  The state must squeeze every ounce of value out of every taxpayer dollar while maintaining our priorities of protecting families and kids the best we can.

 

That means tough decisions.  One of them was to put your raises on hold, along with those of our school teachers and some of our care workers.  We really had no choice.  The cost of these salary increases would be about $678 million over the next two years.  Collective bargaining agreements were finished by October 1.  Then on November 18, our budget deficit grew by $1.9 billion.  We looked hard at whether we could afford increases during these difficult times, and saw we could not.

 

This decision was not easy.  I know how hard our state employees work.  You bring to your jobs every day not only value, but a high calling — a commitment to public service.  I am pleased to tell you that we still are able to honor our commitment to you and your families by maintaining the health care benefits you now have and certainly deserve.

 

By forgoing the raises, you are sharing in the sacrifice.  You are protecting jobs and helping us maintain our priorities of protecting families and children the best we can.  You are helping to protect abused children.  You are making sure poor kids have health care.  You are providing the capacity for more students to attend our colleges and universities.

 

Please know that we are still preparing 8,000 low-income children for school through early childhood education because it is the best investment we can make for their future.  We are still educating 1 million students in grades K-12 because education is the foundation for their future.  We are still providing higher education and job training for 300,000 people because that’s our economic future.  We are still ensuring that more than 650,000 kids receive health care.  We are still keeping our communities safe.  We are still serving our seniors and vulnerable individuals.  We are still moving forward on protecting our environment, particularly Puget Sound.  These investments keep us true to my primary values and will keep our state moving forward.

 

Now is the time for us all to work together — hardworking state employees, Democrats and Republicans, all levels of government and all Washingtonians — to help find the right solutions.  We are up to this challenge.  And if we show innovation, wisdom and courage, we will emerge stronger for it.

 

I encourage you to visit the budget page on my Web site featuring information on Washington’s fiscal condition, efforts undertaken to control state spending, frequently asked questions, budget highlights and, in January, a budget calculator so you can create your own proposal to balance the budget.

 

For more information on my proposed budget, visit http://www.governor.wa.gov/priorities/%20budget/

The budget documents are available at

http://ofm.wa.gov/budget09/

 

Thank you,

 

Chris

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