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2011 Washington State Budget Needs To Make Up $5.1 Billion

Washington State Senate Chamber
(Photo by Wikipedia User Lincolnite)

Three versions of a budget for Washington State are being hammered out in Olympia, with hopes of getting a package that will fund essential programs and help close a $5.1 billion shortfall.  But the ways to get there is being hotly contested.

The Washington State House, Senate, and Governor’s Office have presented budget proposals, all contain a significant amount of budget cuts, but much deeper on the Republican side.  Two sides are emerging:  the Republicans (and some conservative Democrats) favor deep budget cuts-up to 4.8 billion in reductions, to help close the shortfall; while the rest of the Democrats supported by lobbyists and special interest groups, favor closing what they call tax “loopholes” before cutting social services.   According to the Senate version, here are some of the proposed cuts:

Admission to the Basic Health Plan for low-income working adults will be frozen and enrollment capped at 34,000 by the 2013 fiscal year (current enrollment is approximately 41,000).

Admission to the Disability Lifeline program for people who cannot work due to a disability will be limited and enrollment capped at 11,700 (current enrollment is approximately 20,000); cash assistance is eliminated for most recipients and reduced for those awaiting federal SSI benefits.

Eligibility for some children in Apple Health for Kids is lowered and enrollment is capped at 22,500.

Teachers in K-12 will receive a 3 percent salary reduction.

Tuition at our state’s higher education institutions will be increased 11-16 percent.

Senator Mark Schoesler (R-Ritzville) says the “close loopholes” crowd wants to raise taxes in a backhanded way by eliminating tax breaks to avoid reductions on certain programs and services.  The Statewide Poverty Action Network, a PAC heavily involved in Olympia lobbying, wants the legislature to look at closing tax loopholes for out of state banks, corporations, and private jet owners before cutting social services.  Senator Schoesler points out many of these loophole advocates are the same people and groups who supported the legislature granting tax incentives a few years ago to encourage businesses to come to WA.  The Tax Justice Digest lists WA as one of the ten worst states for taxes, especially towards small business (including the B & O or Business and Occupation Tax), and these loopholes were designed to attract companies to relocate here.  The struggles in Olympia continue, as 5.1 billion is a sizable shortfall to make up.

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