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Washington state budget (2011-2012)

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The state's capital budget as originally enacted can be found here. The transportation budget as originally enacted can be found here.

Special Session May 2011

The legislature did not pass a budget in the 105-day regular session and began a its first, month-long special session of the year to finish the budget on April 26, 2011. On May 23, 2011, two days before the end of the special session, legislative leaders announced a tentative deal to close a $5.1 billion budget shortfall.[1] The compromise deal included cuts in nearly every corner of government, a 1.9 percent cut for teacher pay and a three percent cut for other K-12 employees to save $179 million. It also cut three percent in state employee salaries through unpaid leave that would save an additional $177 million.[2] Both chambers of the legislature approved the budget on May 25, 2011.[3]

The two-year, $32 billion budget made $4 billion in cuts to higher education, social services and health care programs.[3]

A tax-amnesty program that permitted companies to pay off back taxes without interest or penalty generated $263 million, $182 million more than expected. The governor and legislative leaders said the tax-amnesty dollars would help lawmakers reach an agreement by the end of the special session. It also meant that lawmakers no longer felt they needed to privatize the state's liquor wholesale-distribution system to generate funds for the state budget.[4]

Legislative Budget

The Senate on April 18, 2011, approved its proposed two-year state budget that reduced spending by $4.8 billion and cut funding for K-12 education in an attempt to fill the $5.1 billion deficit.[5] The Senate plan reduced K-12 education funding by $250 million, which budget writers assumed would come from a three percent wage cut for teachers. It also cuts $95 million from school districts based on class attendance.[6] The Senate budget included more than $450 million in fund transfers.[7] The Basic Health Plan, the state's health care program for the poor, lost $122 million. In addition, the Senate's plan also halted automatic increases to state employee retirement plans to save $361 million.[7]

The House budget reduced spending by $4.4 billion.[7] It cut higher education by $482 million. It also cut state support for higher education to the amount spent 20 years ago, when there were 32,000 fewer students at the six four-year colleges. The University of Washington lost $200 million for the 2011-2013 biennium, a 30 percent cut.[8]

Capital Budget

On April 4, 2011, the House released its $3.13 billion construction budget for the biennium. It included construction grants of $718.5 million for K-12 schools and $626.7 million for projects at colleges and universities. Approximately one-fourth of the capital budget, $831.9 million, was intended for renovation and preservation projects for public agencies, which had the potential to generate over 50,000 new construction jobs in the state.[9]

Governor's Proposed Budget

Gov. Gregoire proposed a state budget based on a shortfall of nearly $5 billion. It eliminated the arts commission and the state food-assistance program, reduced a number of other health and social-service programs and cut funds for higher education.[10] The governor also said she intended to consolidate 21 state agencies down to nine to save $22 million.[11]


The governor proposed spending $13.8 billion on education over the next biennium, an increase over the prior budget, most of which stemmed from the fact that the state was expecting more students. Those funds were about $1 billion short of the level that would keep schools "treading water."

Gregoire's budget included increasing funds for school bus transportation, but cutting a bus-replacement fund by an equal amount. She also proposed reducing or eliminating everything from gifted education to bonuses for teachers who earn the prestigious National Board Certification.[12]


The governor's proposed budget expenditures were as follows[13]:

Category Dollars in Millions
Public Schools $13,746
Higher Education 2,677
Social & Health Services 5,768
Healthcare Authority 4,650
Corrections 1,693
Bond Retirement & Interest 1,952
General Government 829
Natural Resources 332
All Other* 477
Total $32,124

*"Other" includes Other Education, Transportation, Contributions to Retirement Systems and Other Appropriations.