The cuts Gov. Chris Gregoire ordered up last week are harsh. No one admits that more readily than Gregoire herself.
"We're taking away people's livelihood. We're taking away their entire health care," she told reporters today.
Some of the cuts would lead to layoffs in state government. That's nothing new. But others would close down whole programs that provide social services to the disadvantaged. That's something that has largely been avoided in two years of closing budget deficits by trimming, taxing and shuffling money between pots.
Under her suggestions to the Legislature, the state-subsidized insurance program known as the Basic Health Plan would end. So would state-funded health insurance for children and the program Disability Lifeline, which provides cash grants and medical treatment for people temporarily unable to work because of a disability.
"We're supposed to be the ultimate safety net, and we can't be it anymore," Gregoire said.
"When they come, we're not going to be able to help them."
To eliminate those whole programs, though, Gregoire needs the Legislature's sign-off. To have the maximum impact she wants, she needs it before Dec. 12. Gregoire wants to call a special session for December, but she is waiting for a response to her proposals from leaders of both parties in the House and Senate.
She may know by the end of the week whether legislators will agree to return to Olympia before their regular session starting Jan. 10.
Gregoire made the comments about the budget during a news conference announcing her order for the state to move almost entirely to so-called performance-based contracts. They are already increasingly common in state government, especially in the Department of Transportation. Contractors wouldn't be paid until they show results.