Washington state budget cuts now total $5.2 billion – and counting

Washington state budget cuts

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Over 3 budget years from 2009 to 2011, Washington State has grappled with a $12 billion shortfall between the projected need for public services and state revenues – which have plunged because of the recession.

Federal stimulus money and the rainy day fund made up some of the difference, and the state raised $918 million with tighter standards and new taxes. Still, Washington’s legislature has cut $5.2 billion, impacting schools, childcare centers, health clinics, assisted living facilities, families, and individuals across the state.

Despite continued population growth, inflation, and increased needs caused by the recession, Washington’s 2-year General Fund budget for 2009-11 is barely above the 2005-07 level and $2.7 billion below the amount originally budgeted for 2007-09 – an 8% drop.

Washington’s General Fund Biennial Budget, 2005-11

Washington State General Fund Budget, 2005-2011

Sources: Washington Office of Financial Management, Washington Legislative Evaluation and Accountability Program Committee (LEAP). Note: Includes “Near General Fund” Accounts, such as Student Achievement, Education Legacy, Health Services, and Violence Reduction.

More budget cuts are being made. Recovery from the national recession slowed over the summer. As a result, state tax receipts have continued to fall below expectations. Revenues for the 2009-11 budget, which runs through June 2011, now are projected to be $770 million less than expected last spring. That means the state will have to cut – or raise – an additional $516 million in the current budget to prevent a deficit. Governor Gregoire has asked all state agencies to prepare to implement further across-the-board cuts of 6.3% October 1, 2010.

The 2011-13 budget which the legislature will adopt when it returns to Olympia in January 2011 is expected to have a hole of $4.5 billion in addition to all of the reductions already made.

Washington’s General Fund Spending by Category, 2009-11

Washington's General Fund Spending By Category, 2009-11

Source: Washington Legislative Evaluation and Accountability Program Committee

General government cuts include:

  • $428 million in staff reductions, travel and hiring freezes, mandatory unpaid furloughs, and efficiencies
  • $430 million in deferred public employee pension contributions
  • $123 million in criminal justice consolidations and alternative sentencing
  • $56 million from recreation and natural resource management

Education cuts include:

  • $632 million in higher education
  • $479 million in I-728 student achievement funding
  • $369 million in I-732-approved teacher cost of living adjustments
  • $127 million in learning improvement days and professional development

Health cuts include:

  • $236 million from the Basic Health Plan for low income working adults – reducing enrollment by 40,000
  • $33 million in nursing home and personal care services
  • $75 million in hospital reimbursement rate decreases
  • $44.5 million in mental health reductions
  • $54 million in children’s vaccines.
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