Office of Governor Gary Locke
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - December 19, 2000
Contact: Governor's Communications Office, 360-902-4136
Locke's budget moves forward on education, transportationOLYMPIA - Gov. Gary Locke today proposed a state budget that puts Washington on the road to solving its serious transportation problems and delivers nearly $800 million in new, voter-approved funding for public schools.
The spending plan for the 2001-03 Biennium also takes major new steps to increase protection of vulnerable children and adults, continues efforts to save the state's wild salmon runs and scales back programs outside core state services in order to fund top-priority programs.
"This budget shows what we need to do to end the gridlock on our highways," Locke said. "And it delivers on my commitment to make our schools the best in the nation."
Locke's transportation proposal imposes performance goals and measurements that ensure the transportation system is accountable and efficient. It includes a six-year plan calling for $9.6 billion in new state and local funding for transportation improvements statewide.
Included are $5.9 billion in new state projects and grants to local governments to relieve congestion in major highway corridors, improve state ferry service, reduce passenger-rail travel times and make sure public transit is available to all.
Locke said transportation problems have reached "crisis" proportions in some parts of the state. While urban areas often are gridlocked by traffic congestion, rural areas have transportation problems of their own that have to be addressed.
"Our transportation problems have gotten worse because of indecision over which projects are most important, or how to fund them," Locke said. "We cannot afford to continue on this path."
Locke said the state currently does not have the financial resources necessary to carry out a sustained, long-term transportation improvement plan.
"If we are serious about upgrading our transportation system, we will need new revenue," he said. "It's no secret what the alternatives are - the Blue Ribbon Commission on Transportation laid them out in its report earlier this month."
Locke said a revenue package to pay for needed transportation improvements must be determined by the Legislature in its next session starting in January, and then approved by the voters.
"I'm proposing transportation projects that make sense to commuters and truckers - to people who ride ferries, buses or the rails," the governor said. "I call on the Legislature to join with me in finding a funding plan that will make sense to the voters."
Locke's efforts to help Washington's students meet the state's new high standards for student achievement laid the foundation for Initiative 728, which voters overwhelmingly approved in November's general election.
The initiative supported by the governor will deliver more than $1.2 billion in new funding for schools over the next four years. Locke's budget for the next two years includes $470 million in I-728 funding to reduce class sizes, pay for other programs that increase individual attention to students and build new classrooms.
"Education remains my highest priority," the governor said. "I worked during my first term on the education reforms we needed to put in place before we took the next step. The voters agreed we are up to the challenge, and now we are taking that next step."
The governor's budget plan also carries out voter-approved Initiative 732, providing $325 million in new funding for annual cost-of-living adjustments for state-funded school teachers and staff in public schools, as well as community and technical colleges.
Locke said more education reform is yet to come. He wants to repeal burdensome state education regulations and create a new salary system for school teachers based on knowledge, skill and performance.
His budget proposal includes funding for demonstration projects that will lead the way in deregulating schools and establishing a new teacher-compensation system.
Under Locke's budget proposal, enrollment in the state's higher-education system will be increased by 6,225 full-time students, including 1,500 for those seeking degrees in high-demand fields such as information technology and engineering.
The governor's plan also expands Promise Scholarships and State Need Grants, which provide financial aid to college students. And it broadens workforce training programs to respond to the state's shortage of highly skilled technology workers.
Locke's proposal adds $84 million in new human-services funding, primarily to reduce the caseloads of child-protection social workers and state employees who care for disabled people and those who need long-term care.
Additional funding that is proposed to fight the spread of methamphetamine will improve the ability of both the State Patrol and local police agencies to close down "meth" labs.
The budget plan recognizes the value Washington residents place on preserving the state's natural resources. It makes an overall commitment of $212.7 million in state and federal funds to save wild salmon runs and provide the clean water for people, fish, industry and agriculture. And it reforms state water laws to address the backlog of requests for water-rights permits and changes in existing permits.
The governor's proposal includes $23.2 million in new funding to promote rural economic development statewide, including investment in infrastructure that communities need to grow and creation of a Quicksites program that will help communities recruit new industries.
The governor's budget proposal reflects a number of hard choices.
It retains a spending limit for state-government services, but proposes to raise the limit to account for voter-approved, automatic cost-of-living adjustments for public school teachers and other education staff affected by Initiative 732.
It reduces programs and relies on new efficiencies - particularly in the Department of Social and Health Services - to reduce expenditures by nearly $270 million.
"DSHS is the largest purchaser of health care in the state," Locke noted. "As a result, it is the place where efforts to limit rapidly rising health costs are most apparent - and the most needed."
The governor noted that the growth in numbers of people needing social services will cost the state an additional $1 billion over the next two years - primarily to pay the rising cost of medical care for low-income people and those who are disabled, in long-term care or mentally ill.
Health care costs are skyrocketing nationwide, affecting all governments, companies big and small, and individuals. While providing a pay raise for state workers, the governor's budget proposal also requires them to pay more for their health insurance.
The governor’s budget proposal is available online through the Office of Financial Management’s home page at http://www.ofm.wa.gov.