Gov. Chris Gregoire said Thursday she expects a November special session focused on the budget to be a “brutal” gathering that could include even deeper cuts to state education spending.
Gregoire said she wants the Legislature back in Olympia to start official duties beginning Nov. 28, with groundwork laid in the weeks before. The state needs to fill a projected hole of $1.3 billion in the current two-year budget cycle, and Gregoire said she’d like to find $2 billion in savings to leave the state with cash reserves.
“I don’t doubt one bit that I will hate this budget,” Gregoire said. “I will hate it more than the last one.”
The new session comes just months after another special gathering in which lawmakers identified $4.6 billion in projected spending cuts — particularly to education. Gregoire said education is likely to face cuts again. She has already asked each agency to recommend cuts as high as 10 percent.
Gregoire warned that the budget cuts could have major consequences: A 10 percent cut in the Department of Corrections, for example, could force the state to close three prisons and release the inmates.
Budget writers have declined to discuss specific ideas on how to manage the latest budget gap, but Democrats have talked about exploring ways to raise revenue, including the repeal of tax breaks. They argue that revenue can help the state manage the rising costs of people attending school and relying on services during the recession. Republicans have already vowed to oppose any tax increases, and they have the power to do so because of a voter-approved initiative that requires a two-thirds majority to raise taxes.