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Local reps: budget cuts created challenges
Speaking to the Greater Bothell Chamber of Commerce May 13, State Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell, said she has been in the state legislature for 16 years and seen some tough times.
For example, she recalled cutting $100 million from Washington’s education budget in 1995.
“But this year was far more challenging,” McAuliffe said. “No one goes to Olympia to cut the budget the way we had to this year.”
State Rep. Mark Ericks, D-Bothell, quipped he still was “brain dead” from weeks of 20-hour days spent hammering out the state’s just-completed biennial budget.
Now the vice chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, the former Bothell police chief said he and his colleagues had 105 days to develop a $35 billion, two-year budget. He described the final product as consisting almost entirely of cuts and spending reductions.
“Is it perfect? No,” he said. “Are there people mad at us? Yes, there are still people mad at us.”
McAuliffe and Ericks’ comments came as they took part in the chamber’s annual legislative wrap-up, giving their views of the just-completed law-making session in Olympia.
State Rep. Al O’Brien, D-Mountlake Terrace, who also represents the Bothell area, was invited to the forum but did not attend.
Both Ericks and McAuliffe talked about spending cuts in numerous areas. Questions from the audience seemed to center on health and human services and education.
According to McAuliffe, in terms of social programs, legislators were forced to slash dollars from numerous areas such as programs to keep offenders out of jail. They reducing or eliminated health care for 40,000 people.
“There’s nothing good about this budget,” McAuliffe said.
Locally, the Northshore Senior Center lost about 72 percent of its funding for its adult day health program, according to center Director Lee Harper. In the past, Harper contended there was some misunderstanding in Olympia as to what adult day health programs do and about possible duplication of services. At the luncheon, in answering an audience question, Ericks indeed argued there was some overlap in adult day care and adult day health and, at the same time, no room in the budget for duplicated programs.
Regarding local schools, McAuliffe said the state was able to put some additional dollars into junior-high math and science programs. She said if students get interested in those subjects early on, they will be interested for life. In the same vein, both McAuliffe and Ericks said they fought hard to secure funding for what will be the University of Washington, Bothell’s third building, meant to house the campus’ math, engineering and science programs. The project was delayed several years in the budget proposed by Gov. Chris Gregoire.
“It’s a big deal for us,” said UW-Bothell Chancellor Kenyon Chan, who was in the audience for the chamber luncheon. “It confirms the fact that the University of Washington, Bothell is going to be here.”
Chan had previously said the school is set to receive $5 million for design work on the new building.
Hitting on another topic that could become a huge issue for the entire region, Ericks said he is “very worried” about the future of aerospace in the state. He added he couldn’t imagine a Washington that didn’t include Boeing.
“And yet we run the risk of not having that in the future,” Ericks said.
Looking toward the future, McAuliffe said the country’s “creative edge” eventually would see it through the current tough economy. Ericks admitted his outlook consists more of “gloom and doom.”
Both he and McAuliffe said the state would have been in even worse shape but for millions in federal stimulus money. Both also noted those dollars run out in two years. And Ericks argued the local economy is unlikely to recover to the point it was at a few years ago before the federal money goes away. In the end, Ericks predicted the 2011-2013 state budget will be as lean as the current spending plan.