Washington lawmakers have adjourned their unprecedented 17-day November-December emergency session designed to start trimming the state budget to size.
But they won’t be gone for long. The regular 2012 session, supposedly limited to 60 days, is just around the corner — Jan. 9.
The Democratic-controlled Legislature didn’t do the complete $2 billion budget-and-tax deal that Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire had strongly recommended when she called the session. They gave strong bipartisan agreement to a plan, House Bill 2058, that begins the task by shaving $480 million from the budget — a combination of cuts, fund shifts and revenue-generating ideas. The latter does not include taxes, such as the voter-approved half-cent sales tax hike the governor has in mind.
Legislators called it a down-payment, although unhappy minority Republicans called it only a partial down-payment with all the tough decisions yet to come.
The Office of Secretary of State, which includes the Elections Division, Corporations and Charities Division, State Archives, State Library, Address Confidentiality Program, and other programs assigned by the Legislature, was included in this first new wave of budget cuts — $2.6 million in all.
Cuts include $498,000 from the State Library, which has sustained heavy cuts in recent sessions; $1.6 million from administration of the agency; $203,000 from Elections; $300,000 in pass-through support for TVW, the state’s version of C-SPAN; and $30,000 from the Legacy Project, which produces oral histories and other projects. The State Archives also are sustaining cuts due to declining contracts from public agencies for preservation and digitization of public documents. The Corporations Division does not receive General Fund support and generates money from fees to sustain their operations and to help pay for schools and other General Fund programs.