While Gov. Chris Gregoire added definition to what another $2 billion cut to the state budget could mean for higher education and the rest of the state services, Shoreline Community College President Lee Lambert said the college must continue planning for a range of outcomes.
“With another $2 billion in the hole,” Gregoire said Thursday, Oct. 27, 2011. “Our citizens will get a lot less.”
Gregoire laid out a laundry list of potential cuts totaling $4 billion and then put stars by the options she is proposing, totaling $2 billion. The state is facing a $1.4 billion shortfall and Gregoire has pegged the needed cut level at $2 billion to provide some cushion. The list she unveiled Thursday isn’t yet a budget; that will come after the Nov. 17 state revenue forecast and before the start of the Nov. 28 special legislative session, she said.
For higher education, Gregoire is proposing from the list of possible cuts a 15 percent reduction in state allocations for all of higher education, which would amount to $166 million. Under her plan, that cut would come in the second half of the biennium, taking effect on July 1, 2012. Gregoire would also suspend the Work Study Program, cutting $8 million in aid to 7,600 students at public and private colleges and universities beginning fall term 2012.
Also on her list, but not chosen, were cuts of 10 or 20 percent and a range of options to eliminate or reduce the State Need Grant. That program is the state’s largest financial aid program, providing grants to 70,000 low-income students.
The list also includes 10 furlough days, but this is not among the preferred alternatives. It also includes some potential changes to employee health benefits, but there is not enough information to determine how the preferred alternatives might impact employees.
At Shoreline, President Lambert said that while the Governor has presented one version of a cut, legislators in the special session could still make substantial changes.
“We will continue with our planning efforts,” Lambert said. “The Governor has presented one possible scenario. However, we just don’t know what will happen and we must be prepared for a range of possibilities.”
Lambert just named a working group of administrators, staff and faculty to develop budget reduction scenarios of 15, 20 and 25 percent. That group is due to deliver their recommendations to Lambert on Nov. 18.
Gregoire said Thursday that she will present a budget that relies on cuts, not adding more taxes, even though many legislators are talking about how to add revenue to the budget. “All four caucuses (Democrats and Republicans from both House and Senate) have come to me about revenue,” she said. “I have not done any thinking about that. That will come next.”
Gregoire said she would like legislators to focus on the budget reductions during the special session and focus on “putting Washington back to work” in the regular session starting in January.
“I don’t want anyone to think that I like these options,” Gregoire said. “These choices were made out of necessity due to a drop in consumer confidence brought on by actions on Wall Street, inaction by Congress and the European debt crisis. The list of options I’ve presented hurts. This is not what I signed up for when I started as a caseworker 40 years ago. But it’s what the world economy handed our state and our country.”