Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Democratic leaders in State Senate release horrendous all-cuts budget proposal

State Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, Ways & Means Chair Margarita Prentice, and Ways & Means Vice Chair Rodney Tom are currently holding a press conference in Olympia to discuss some of the lowlights of the awful budget proposal they're releasing. Among those hit the hardest will he Washington's institutions of higher education and the state's mentally ill population.

Rich Roesler from the Spokesman-Review has already combed through the document, which he says is like the size of a phone book:
It calls for closing the state prison on McNeil Island, doing away with hundreds of millions of dollars in cost-of-living increases for state workers, college staffers and teachers, and cutting nearly half a billion from higher education. Drug- and alcohol treatment would be cut, and 3,000 people judged unemployable — often due to mental illness — would be cut from a $339 monthly stipend and health care.

The plan is largely a no-new-taxes plan, although it would include a voluntary $5 annual fee per vehicle to stave off the closure of dozens of state parks. It also does away with a real-estate tax exemption for foreclosed homes sold by banks. It includes far more in tax breaks, including a $2.1 million tax break for newspapers.
In addition, funding for the voter approved Initiative 728 (class size reduction) and Initiative 732 (cost of living increases for teachers) would be pretty much wiped out, according to Senator Rodney Tom.

That would yield "savings" of over $800 million.

The cuts to state colleges and universities are even more awful. Tuition would be hiked by seven percent everywhere, and every university would be forced to make brutal cuts. Eastern Washington University's budget, for example, would be cut by a fifth, leading to the layoffs of over one hundred employees.

About ten thousand slots for students would also be cut at the state's public universities and colleges.

"This really isn't about numbers, it's about people," Tom noted at the press conference, emphasizing that the cuts would be extremely painful.

"There isn't anyone in this room... who isn't finding things they care about. This is truly devastating... for all of us," Senator Margarita Prentice added.

A total of roughly eight thousand state employees would be laid off, damaging our state's prospects for a quicker economic recovery and putting more Washingtonians out of work.


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