Politics & Government

Lawmakers get budget cutbacks

Washington legislators are getting less money for expenses and newsletters, their staff is shrinking and getting paid less, and the Youth Legislature won’t get any money from the state for two years as part of the budget adopted last month by the Legislature.

Overall, the 2009-11 budget for the state House of Representatives and Senate will be cut by about $12 million – to $120 million – and 36 of the 709 jobs in the Legislature will be eliminated. About a dozen of those will result in layoffs; the others will come from cutting vacant positions.

House Chief Clerk Barbara Baker notified the 98 representatives and their staff members earlier this week that five workers had been given termination notices as part of the House effort to trim $6.5 million from that chamber’s budget over the next two years. Details were sent in an e-mail Thursday. A copy was forwarded to The News Tribune.

No detailed information about the Senate budget was immediately available, but general information about the House and Senate are included in state budget documents.

Among the cuts:

 • Per diem for 98 House members has been cut to $90 a day from $100 a day, effective immediately. That will save nearly $200,000 in the House alone. The Senate was and will remain at $90 a day.

 • House and Senate staff members have been ordered to take 40 hours of unpaid leave (furlough) each year. That will save $622,000 in the House and a lesser amount in the Senate, which has a smaller staff. It amounts to a 2 percent pay cut.

 • House and Senate staff members also are voluntarily taking time off without pay. In the House, that will amount to 4,300 hours and will save $414,000.

 • Salaries for all staff members have been frozen for two years.

 • House and Senate contributions to the YMCA Youth Legislature, as well as the number of student pages and interns, will be cut by 25 percent to 50 percent in both chambers.

 • House members will be given per diem (for food and lodging reimbursement) for four fewer days each year.

 • Money for member “production budgets,” for such things as newsletters or town hall meetings, was cut by about $500,000 in the House.

Baker said the House budget had many of the same constraints as the overall state budget in that some parts were off limits in terms of cuts. For instance, the Legislature must pay for basic education. Likewise, none of the 98 state representatives could be eliminated in a budget move, she said. And each representative has one legislative aide, so nearly 200 employees were off the table when it came to cuts, she said.

“Unlike state agencies, we don’t have a ‘program’ to cut,” Baker said. “We still have to do the same thing regardless of how many people we have to do it.”

The House is cutting $6.5 million over the next two years, or about 8.8 percent of its former $74 million two-year budget.

Brad Hendrickson, deputy secretary of the Senate, said the Senate budget was cut by about $5 million to reach $52 million.

Joseph Turner: 253-597-8436