Washington state lawmakers have started assessing potential ideas on how to fix the state’s budget situation, hearing proposals Monday that would further reduce teacher salaries, release prisoners early and eliminate virtually all substance abuse services.
None of the plans has been endorsed by lawmakers or their staff members. Legislative leaders are simply starting the process of reviewing options to find about $2 billion in cuts before a special session that starts at the end of November.
Senate Republican Leader Mike Hewitt said that focusing spending reductions on prisons would be a threat to public safety and suggested that the Department of Corrections won’t be able to face the 10 percent cuts that other agencies will.
To reach $2 billion, staff members laid out some of the major reductions that may need to take place. Teachers, who faced a 1.9 percent salary reduction just a few months ago, could have that changed to a 3 percent cut to save $38 million. Another 10 furlough days for state employees would save $55 million.
At the Department of Social and Health Services, officials have said the reductions could mean eliminating all alcohol and substances abuse services for adults, except for pregnant and parenting women. That would affect 55,000 people at a savings of $72 million.
Gov. Chris Gregoire’s office plans to develop a new budget proposal by next month.
The focus on cuts comes just a few months after lawmakers finalized a budget with reductions in projected spending that totaled $4.6 billion. (AP)