On Friday Gov. Inslee vetoed over 147 new spending allocations approved by the Washington State Legislature last session, cutting a total of $445 million from the budget over the next three years.
Let's go through some big ones and the ones that caught my eye real quick:
• $116 million more for more guidance counselors, which the Gov. acknowledges will suck for kids when they get back to school
• $50 million more for the Climate Resiliency Account
• $50 million to increase primary care client service rates
• $35 million for paraeducator training
• $22 million more for early childhood education
• ~10.7 million to increase client service rates for Behavioral Health Services
• $2 million for a "common application" to make it easier for people to apply for college
• $2 million for "extracurricular activities for foster youth"
• $1 million for Home Care Agencies, which "provide non-medical services to ill, disabled, or vulnerable people with functional limitations"
Office of Financial Management director David Schumacher said no cuts in current spending were made to "public health, hospitals, child care," though of course investments that touch those areas were slashed.
Though there was a $400,000 cut to expand administration spending for the Washington College Grant, which funds college for extremely low-income students in Washington, Schumacher said any student who applies and qualifies for the grant will still get it "no matter what."
Inslee said he vetoed all this new spending “to be fiscally responsible and realistic." He and lawmakers anticipate dramatic losses in the regressive tax revenue Washington relies on to fund all its programs. The "unprecedented" rise in the number of unemployment claims and other costs will also blow holes in the budget for who knows how long.
The size of those holes is TBD, but everyone knows they will be very large. Inslee admitted some "concern" that "we'll run through our $3 billion" in reserves, and said cutting new spending and approved financial expansions of current programs will "reduce the chance of that."
Misha Werschkul, director of the progressive Washington State Budget and Policy Center (WSBPC), said "It's not a question of 'if' we burn through the rainy day fund, it's how quickly."
She added that "$3 billion sounds substantial, and we're definitely in a better position than we were headed into the Great Recession, but this crisis is still unfolding and we don't know how deep the fiscal impact will be."
"It's reasonable to expect we'll develop a $5 billion gap pretty quickly," she added. "But hopefully we'll have enough to carry things through."
According to analysis from the WSBPC, during the recession lawmakers made "more than $10 billion in cuts—including eliminating health care for 70,000 Washingtonians, nearly doubling the cost of higher education, and eliminating child care assistance for thousands of Washingtonians."
Washington's recovery of revenues after the recession was "extremely slow," Werschkul said, due to the state's regressive tax structure.
In today's presser, Inslee said lessons from the recession informed his decision-making today and will inform future decisions. "We learned we can’t cut essential services that then damage us in the future. Mental health services were cut to the bone...and we’re still struggling to get out of that shadow," he said.
During yesterday's presser, Inslee said “in the longer term there are other things we can do” to "get ready for a huge reduction in revenues," but today he dodged when asked if he was considering raising new taxes, saying, "We intend to make good fiscally responsible decisions."
There is no way to cut ourselves out of this hell. The only "responsible" way forward is to continue pushing the federal government to direct more money to the states, as Inslee is doing, and then to champion substantial progressive taxes in the legislature next session, which Inslee is not yet doing.
To end on a somewhat less scoldy note, the Governor also announced that he was extending the eviction moratorium for as long as the current Stay Home order is in place, which pushes that date back from April 17 to at least May 4. So that's good! That's a good Friday thing! Good job!