This Washington

Gregoire Talks State Budget With PubliCola

By Josh Feit August 4, 2010

PubliCola interviewed Gov. Chris Gregoire this morning after the news that U.S. Sen. Patty Murray pulled a deus ex machina and secured $338 million in Medicaid money for the state budget—and $205 million for teachers salaries. (The budget items were paid for with offsets.)

Gregoire explained that given the limp receipts for June ($85 million shy) and the fact that the current 2009-2011 state budget relied on $480 million in Medicaid money, the ending fund balance is "getting pretty narrow." (The education dollars don't help the general fund because they are dedicated for the separate education budget.)

Gregoire told PubliCola she's now waiting for the next round of receipts before ruling out more cuts. "I don't see it getting better," she said.

The ending fund balance, originally at $253 million, is now down to about $25 million. "We're teetering pretty close," says Glenn Kuper, spokesman for the state Office of Financial Management. "We're not out of the woods yet."

Without the Murray money, though, the state budget would have been in the red by over $300 million.

We also asked Gregoire about the public budget forums she's holding around the state. Was she getting any ideas on how to deal with the projected $3 billion shortfall for the 2011-2013 biennium?

"There's no consensus among the public," she says. "One individual will come up to the mike and say 'whatever you do not raise new revenue.' Then the next person will take the mike on the other side of the room and say 'whatever you do do not cut human services.'"

Gregoire says the bipartisan panel she's appointed to help her with the budget process are "a little concerned."

"Has the public given me a bold idea to restructure our budget? Not so far."
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