The starting point for a conversation about how to close the state's $6 billion deficit will come tomorrow as Governor Gregoire unveils a 2009-11 budget proposal that will likely include dramatic cuts in the areas of human services, health care, education, and higher education.
These are difficult times for our state and our nation. In the midst of economic uncertainty, state government can play an important role in protecting families and creating opportunities for a better tomorrow. As job losses rise, more people in our state will need unemployment benefits and state-funded health insurance in order to meet basic needs. Our community colleges must be affordable so that people can access workforce training programs. And state initiatives can provide needed jobs and boost economic security for families while also making important investments in state infrastructure.
While a weak economy increases the need for government protections and services, it also can significantly reduce the revenue that allows the pursuit of those priorities. There is no easy answer to a $6 billion problem, but the process of developing and passing a balanced budget must include consideration of all available options, including raising revenue through tax increases and closing tax exemptions.
Now is not the time to turn away from investing in our long term efforts to create a just and prosperous Washington State. We must work together towards a shared vision in which there is education and opportunity, thriving communities, good health and a safe environment, and economic security for everyone. With the economy in peril, our state needs bold action and leadership in order to make progress towards these important goals.
We will release a detailed analysis of the Governor's budget proposal in early January.