State Workers

Order puts state cuts into motion

The Washington State Capitol in Olympia. (Tony Overman/The Olympian)
The Washington State Capitol in Olympia. (Tony Overman/The Olympian)

OLYMPIA - Gov. Chris Gregoire signed an executive order Monday directing across-the-board cuts to state programs, but the exact amount of the reductions won't be known until later this week.

Gregoire had already told state agencies to prepare for cuts of up to 7 percent, but she warned Monday that she feared they would have to be even higher. In her order, Gregoire directs her budget office to calculate the amount based on the numbers from the updated state revenue forecast that will be issued Thursday.

“We’re as prepared as one can be for the bad news that I’m sure we’re going to get,” she said.

Gregoire said her pessimism is based on past bleak tax collections that show less money going into the state’s treasury, as well as recent updates from the state’s top economist that indicate that trend is continuing.

“We’re bouncing along the bottom,” Gregoire said. “We have some good news and some bad news, but the bottom line is, consumers are not buying.”

Under her order, new spending cuts would take effect Oct. 1. Gregoire has already made some initial cuts, announcing last month a reduction of at least $51 million to WorkFirst, the state’s welfare-to-work program.

House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis, said that while the reductions are necessary, an across-the-board cut is “not the right approach.”

“We should have gone into session and been more proactive and strategic with our cuts, and fix it and fix it right instead of with one fell swoop,” he said.

Even with the across-the-board cuts, Gregoire has said lawmakers during next year’s 105-day legislative session will need to quickly pass a supplemental budget cutting $500 million from the last six months of this fiscal year.

The upcoming 2011-2013 budget could need to be cut by 10 percent in order to bridge an expected $3 billion shortfall. Gregoire issued the executive order hours before she was set to leave on an 11-day trade mission to Asia.

The Democratic governor plans to visit the World Expo in Shanghai, stop in other Chinese cities and visit Vietnam. Joining her will be more than 100 representatives from business, agriculture and education.