GOP: No tax hikes, tobacco grab or gambling revenue needed

By DAVID AMMONS The Associated Press
3/6/02 10:51 PM

OLYMPIA (AP) -- Senate Republicans say if they had one more seat and
controlled the Senate, they could easily produce a state budget without tax
increases, gambling revenue or use of tobacco-settlement money.

GOP caucus leaders outlined $1.5 billion worth of spending cuts
Wednesday.  If Democrats would adopt some of the options, the huge budget
deficit would be erased and the Legislature would be in better shape to
face the grim revenue picture of the next three years, they told reporters.

Sen.  Dino Rossi, R-Sammamish, ranking minority member of the Senate budget
committee, said Democrats are considering a budget that spends $1.4 billion
more than the state will receive in revenues, tapping future tobacco
revenue and dipping heavily into reserves.

"This is not rocket science," said Minority Leader James West,
R-Spokane.  "We're trying to be helpful, rather than just say `Bad budget.
Bad budget."'

The GOP prposals include:

--Payroll cuts.  They suggest a hiring freeze in all non-essential
services, saving $194 million.  They would freeze state employee salaries,
saving $78 million; reduce overtime, saving $16 million; eliminate planning
days for teachers, saving $37 million; and cut back state agency lobbyists
and information officers, saving $13 million.

--Health care.  The GOP plan includes $100 million from better
administration of the Basic Health Plan and $159 million by using tobacco
dollars for health care programs other than the BHP.  The latter would
require amendment of an initiative voters passed last fall.  The proposal
also suggests a sliding scale for employees' health benefit costs, saving
$49 million, and limiting General Assistance Unemployment checks to one
year, saving $10 million.

--Contracting out.  Agencies could save at least $100 million by using
private vendors for such things as building and park maintenance, the
caucus said.

--Efficiencies and cuts.  The GOP included some of the proposals already
embraced by the governor and Senate Democrats, including lower pension
contributions, removing transportation funding from the main budget, and
reducing local government aid.  Republicans also proposed tort liability
changes and cutbacks in legislative mail budgets by $6,850 per
lawmaker.  The changes would save $477 million.

--Overhead.  The plan also calls for reductions in goods and services,
furniture and equipment, travel, use of outside consultants, and training
conferences and retreats.  They said that could save over $300 million.

Senate budget Chairwoman Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, said some of the
suggestions already are incorporated in her budget, but that other ideas
are clearly unworkable or not permitted under state law.


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