Governor's Budget Shows Need for Balanced Approach
For the second year in a row, the Governor’s budget proposes deep cuts to core public services in response to the continuing economic and fiscal crisis in the state. Combined with the cuts already enacted in the current biennium, the Governor’s supplemental budget proposal would result in a nearly 14 percent reduction in the state’s investments in education, health care, and economic security.
The damage to our education system, health care infrastructure, public safety, and environmental protections would impact all Washingtonians. The Governor’s supplemental proposal would also create immediate harm for many. For example:
- Over 65,000 people will lose access to affordable health insurance;
- 16,000 children will lose health insurance coverage;
- Over 20,000 people who are unable to work due to disability will lose financial and medical assistance;
- 12,300 students from lower income families will lose an important source of financial aid;
- 2,400 working families per month will lose child care assistance;
- 1,500 three-year-olds will lose access to early learning opportunities.
Relying heavily on deep cuts represents one potential approach to the budget shortfall. Over the coming months other ideas will be presented, including more balanced approaches that propose raising revenue to avoid drastic cuts that will harm our state’s residents and economy.
Cuts on top of cuts
The $1.6 billion in cuts proposed in the Governor’s supplemental budget proposal should not be considered in isolation. These cuts are on top of the $3.5 billion in cuts already made to the current biennial budget when it was signed in May. Combined with those already-enacted cuts, the Governor’s supplemental budget proposal would result in a nearly 14 percent reduction in the state’s near-general fund. This is not counting the cuts being offset with federal recovery funding.
Every area of the budget has been affected by the enacted budget cuts and will continue to suffer under the Governor’s supplemental budget proposal. Taken together, the enacted cuts and the Governor’s supplemental budget proposed cuts include:
- Investments in education and opportunity - from preschool to universities - would be cut by 14 percent (Figure 1). Higher education and worker training would be hit particularly hard, with a 23 percent cut in total;
- Programs that create thriving communities - such as public safety and balanced economic development - would receive an eight percent cut;
- Efforts to ensure the health of people and our environment would be cut by 15 percent;
- State spending on supports that provide economic security would be reduced by 23 percent during the worst recession since the Great Depression, a time of expanding need for lower income people.
The individual cuts proposed in the Governor’s supplemental budget are detailed on pages 4-8.
An imbalanced approach
During the last session, the state faced a $9 billion shortfall for a three-year period (fiscal years 2009 through 2011). The Governor and Legislature responded primarily by cutting state spending. There were a few pieces of legislation that raised revenue, but no meaningful tax increases. The balance of the budget shortfall was closed with federal recovery funding, account transfers, and other budget changes.
The Governor’s supplemental budget proposal that was released on December 9th of this year follows in the same vein focusing heavily on cuts. It proposes no revenue increases and fills in the remaining hole with various transfers and changes.
However, the Governor also announced that she would introduce a second budget in January that would replace $700 million of the proposed cuts with revenue increases. She listed a number of budget items that she hopes to protect in her second budget, but many important services are left out, such as programs that help working families pay for child care, prevent costly health problems by supporting at-risk pregnant women, and clean up toxic sites.
Even with the Governor’s forthcoming revenue proposal, the approach the state has taken to the total budget shortfall will still be severely imbalanced. The Governor’s current proposal to raise $700 million combined with the revenue-raising efforts of the last legislative session amount to only eight percent of the total $11 billion budget shortfall. This is in contrast to the 40 percent in budget cuts to core public services (Figure 2).
The state budget is a reflection of our values and goals. The decisions we make to balance the budget will have an impact on our ability to educate our children, maintain the health and well-being of Washington families and workers, and provide economic security to those in financial trouble. These decisions will also determine how quickly and effectively Washington recovers from this difficult economic period. It is time for a balanced approach, in which careful spending cuts are combined with meaningful increases in revenue.
The Budget & Policy Center gratefully acknowledges the support of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, Marguerite Casey Foundation, Campion Foundation, and the Seattle Foundation.The findings and conclusions presented in this report are those of the authors alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of these organizations.