Washington’s Worst Recession
Budget Cuts Coming Across the Board
If the $5.1 billion in state budget cuts felt like too much this spring (programs like low-income health care, public school funding, and hospice care all got hit), well, prepare for more. As the Great Recession plows onward, state revenue forecasters are revising their estimates for state income in the budget cycle that ends in 2011. And they’re revising them downward—way, way downward.
On September 16, Dr. Arun Raha, the state’s chief revenue forecaster, announced that the state was facing a $1.4 billion revenue drop-off. “The Washington recovery seems to have lost momentum in the summer months after strong growth in the spring,” Dr. Raha said. “The reasons are not Washington-specific, but due to the slowing of the national economy.”
Which means back to the cutting board. That same day, from China, where she was traveling trying to drum up investment in Washington State, Governor Chris Gregoire announced 6.3 percent across-the-board cuts to all state agencies, effective October 1. “Make no mistake,” Gregoire said on a video conference call with reporters. “Our communities will feel it. Our services will be reduced across the state.”
Human-services programs are right at the top of the list (ordered to cut $351.7 million), followed by higher education ($84 million) and K–12 education ($36 million). Another state prison will likely have to close, and community- and technical-college slots are likely to drop by about 9,000. “My heart goes out,” Gregoire said, “to everyone who will be impacted by these budget cuts.” She called this the deepest recession in the history of Washington State.