Gov. Chris Gregoire says she’s calling a special session to begin on Nov. 28. Why that date? “We need to get a budget done well before Christmas,” she said, but they also need the benefit of seeing the November revenue forecast.
“I have met with all four caucus leaders and all four budget leaders,” she said. She’s asking them all to work together. “Let’s do what we did last session so effectively,” she said, so in January, lawmakers can roll up their sleeves and try to find ways to spur job growth.
“Over the next week, I will provide our Legislature with the 10 percent reductions” requested from state agencies, she said. “However, let me be clear, not even that is enough to get us out of the hole,” she said.
“Our work will be brutal,” she said, but she’s not asking the Legislature to start from scratch: She’ll provide a “road map” with some proposed cuts. “Everything has to be on the table,” she said, including public schools, universities, social services and more. “We cannot take … a Pac-Man approach to the budget. We can’t just keep taking little bites out of one program, little bites out of one service,” she said. Instead, the state will have to admit there are some things it cannot do.
She said the $2 billion in cuts will come from $8.7 billion in areas where the state can actually make cuts. The remainder of the budget constitutes debt repayment and other mandatory spending. “Everything over which we have legal discretion … there will be those who disagree with us,” she said, and may file a lawsuit, but in her opinion the state can cut from social services, healthcare, education and corrections. “Those are the only places where there’s any real amount of money to get to $2 billion.”
She said she wants this done and finished before the next regular legislative session begins in January. “Let’s reserve the 2012 session to work on the policies that will help our economy,” she said.
What about taxes? “Premature. I won’t take anything off the table, I’ve asked them not to, so I won’t,” she said. “I’m not talking revenue now… I will take nothing off the table at this point.”
Why not start now? “We’re doing exactly what would be done if we came into legislative session in 2012. We’re doing it so we can get done in December,” she said. “I think they come in once all the work has been done,” she said, including committee meetings. “I think it helps them if I give them a start on it all, so that’s why I intend to give them a plan. They can disagree with it … I want them to begin the debate early,” she said.