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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Primarily as a result of the recession, Washington State, like most states, is now facing a large deficit ($2.6 billion). As we pointed out in our recent slideshow on the state economic and fiscal outlook, most of the budget is off-limits to cuts. This means that an all-cuts budget would require elimination of entire programs and services.

A new presentation by the Senate Ways and Means Committee staff provides more detail on this issue. They estimate that only $7.7 billion of the state budget is vulnerable to cuts in the coming session, with programs that provide economic security for lower income Washingtonians being especially exposed.

They break down the $7.7 billion into three categories: 1) timing (nearly $10 billion will already be spent by the time the new budget is signed), 2) legal restrictions such as state constitutional requirements, federal law, and debt and pension obligations, and 3) strings attached to the federal recovery funds.

The graph below breaks down the vulnerable part of the budget into program areas.

They also provide a possible scenario (see table below) to illustrate what $2.6 billion in cuts could mean. It includes elimination of financial aid, the Basic Health Plan, in-home services for clients with long-term care needs or developmental disabilities, and money that is used to equalize school funding between rich and poor districts.

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