OLYMPIA, Wash. - 'Happy Holidays' is not exactly the message delivered
by Gov. Chris Gregoire in her proposed state budget. 'Lean and mean'
hardly describes the deep cuts to social services and education,
according to some. But, she is required by law to present a budget
based on the state's current income picture, and Washington is another
$2.6 billion in the hole.
Gerry Reilly, chair of the Eldercare Alliance, says home-care service cuts will force seniors into nursing homes and eliminate health workers' jobs.
"They are proposing to continue down the path of eliminating Adult Day
Health programs; eliminating personal care, chore services; dental
services, vision services, hearing services, rehab services, hospice
services, and podiatry services."
The proposal would cut state-subsidized health coverage for about
100,000 people, including 16,000 children. At the Community Health
Network, Assistant VP of Government Affairs Rebecca Kavoussi says it
pushes the total number of uninsured to almost one million.
"Was it hard to see all those programs completely eliminated on paper?
Absolutely. That really makes you think, what would happen if 100,000
more people were uninsured, out on the street, overnight?"
The education cuts run the gamut, from eliminating all-day kindergarten
to cutting financial aid for 12,000 college students. Sandra Schroeder,
president of AFT Washington, says, on top of this year's 14-percent tuition hike, many will have no choice but to drop out.
"The students are taking a huge impact one way or another - first by
dramatic tuition increases; now by the loss of student aid. Higher
education, if this continues, will be damaged in this state for
Such sharp cuts might not be necessary if the state is able to increase its income. Marilyn Watkins, policy director at the Economic Opportunity Institute, says there are some fairly painless ways to do that.
"Some of them are pretty simple, like putting sales tax on candy and
gum and bakery goods. We could do a bottled water tax, which would both
raise significant amount of revenue and be a major environmental
A frustrated and apologetic Gov. Gregoire said she can't live with the
human costs of this budget and will release a new one in January. Some
believe the all-cuts budget is a strategic move, to force the
legislature to find ways to increase state revenue. The suggested cuts
total $1.7 billion, which is not enough to fill the budget gap.