Seattle's News Elixir

Gov. Chris Gregoire held a press conference of her own today right after the legislative crew did theirs, responding to the latest budget news—a $700 million hit.

"Like the last few forecasts," she said, "today’s offers no relief to our budget problem. But it does add urgency to our solutions."

Gov. Gregoire at today's press conference.

Gregoire reiterated the measures she's already taken and proposals she's made to grapple with the initial $4.6 billion budget shortfall—such as ending automatic cost of living increases for state employees; shutting down or eliminating 75 agencies and programs for $1 billion in savings; and making public employees cover more of their health care costs---15 percent as opposed to 12 percent.

Her written remarks are here.

After her prepared statement, Gregoire took questions from the press, mostly swatting down other people's proposals.

1. Gregoire was not persuaded by the 1,500 activists who showed up in Olympia today demanding that the legislature close tax loopholes so that "corporations ... share in the sacrifices to fix the crisis they helped create," as one speaker put it. (Estimates put tax loopholes at $6.5 billion per biennium.)

Protesters gathered on the Capitol steps today as the legislature reacted to the latest revenue shortfall with talk of more cuts.

"I know at first blush it looks like an easy solution," Gregoire said, "but do we want to tax food, do we want to tax aerospace, the driving force in our economy? And can you get a two thirds vote? It is a tax increase."

2. Sen. Adam Kline's (D-37) idea for early release of prisoners? "That's the last place I'd go. I believe in truth in sentencing."

3. Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson's (D-36) proposal to raise an estimated $440 million by legalizing and regulating marijuana and selling it at state liquor stores? "That's of little interest to me," Gregoire said dismissively.

4. And asked by Seattle Times reporter Andrew Garber if she would veto the few ideas she had already bad-mouthed in her statement as "quick fix loans" that end up creating and "increasing state debt"—such as securitization (or borrowing against tobacco settlement money) and the "25th month" solution (the notion of booking revenues from the first month of the 2013-2015 biennium for the 2011-2013 one), she said: "When I say I don't like it, don't bring it to me."

On the flip side, asked about saving programs such as the Basic Health Plan and the Disability Lifeline (which she proposed cutting in the supplemental budget, but the legislature preserved), Gregoire said she wished the legislature luck this time, adding: "no one wants to cut it, including myself, but these are the times we find ourselves in. I don't know where they find the money. What do you cut?"
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