OLYMPIA, Wash. - On Day One of the 2010 State Legislature, petitions
from more than 20,000 Washingtonians asked Gov. Chris Gregoire and
state leaders to focus on raising revenue rather than cutting programs
and services that affect the state's quality of life, from health care
Cecily Jenkins, a single mom from Tacoma who presented the petitions, says her concern is for the younger generation.
"I know that they have to make some harsh decisions - and I'm just
hoping that, while they're making these harsh decisions, our children
are not a part of that. No matter what, they have to be able to have
the services for a good future, for them and for families."
One of the programs slated to end is state-funded early learning for
1,500 low-income children, with hundreds more on waiting lists. Other
cuts would end tuition assistance for 12,000 college students, and
eliminate more people from the Basic Health Plan. Signers of the
petitions say all of these are vital to helping the state recover from
With a $2.6-billion state budget gap, some say government is learning
the hard way how to spend less money. Others say tax increases and
eliminating exemptions and loopholes are necessary. Jim Dawson,
organizing director for FUSE Washington,
the group that collected the petitions, says 70 percent of state
spending is mandated by the Constitution and can't be cut, which means
more money has to be raised.
"This is the responsible approach. This is how we protect the things
that everyone values in Washington state - like quality schools,
dependable health care system, good-paying jobs and the social services
that folks really need during this hard time."
Many critics believe the governor is counting too heavily on federal
funds to help ease the budget crisis, which they hope won't give
lawmakers an excuse to put tax reform on hold for another year.