Each December, the governor of Washington has to release a proposed state budget. (Earlier there than in Oregon or Idaho, and probably a better schedule.) Those budgets have to work within expected state revenues. Usually, that's not much of an issue, even if the governor is proposing a tax increase. This year . . .
Governor Chris Gregoire's proposed budget (supplemental, for the latter part of the 09-11 biennium) reflects the $2.6 billion spread between the money available and the money which has been expected for spending, through huge cuts:
"Among the programs targeted for elimination are the state Basic Health Plan, which provides health care coverage to nearly 65,000 individuals ($160 million); Apple Health for children, which provides health care coverage to 16,000 low-income children ($11 million); and the General Assistance Unemployable program, which provides cash grants for 23,000 adults and medical services to nearly 17,000 adults ($188 million). In education, funding would be eliminated for 1,500 3-year-olds participating in the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program; the kindergarten-through-4th grade staffing enhancement that reduces class size in the early grades; and levy equalization, which provides extra support to districts with a lower than average property tax base."
Gregoire is expected to propose tax increases of some sort, but the idea appears to be that she wants the effect of the cuts to start to sink into public consciousness first. That could change the feel of the either-or decision.
Peter Callaghan of the Tacoma News-Tribune writes today: "If that was the plan, it worked. Within 90 minutes of the press conference I’d already heard from the Friends of Basic Health Care Coalition, the Washington State Budget and Policy Center, the Washington State Hospital Association, the state nurses union, AARP and University of Washington President Mark Emmert."
The battle is on.