OLYMPIA, Wash. - Privatizing the state's ferry system and selling naming rights to highways or rest stops are among the ideas Gov. Chris Gregoire is considering as she prepares the next state budget.
The state is looking at another budget cycle of major deficits, as tax collections continue to drag following the Great Recession.
Gregoire and Democratic legislative leaders cut about $12 billion from the current two-year budget to balance the books. But the next two-year budget is already facing a projected shortfall of about $3 billion.
"We have been negotiating our way through some very tough times while the economy slowly improves, "Gregoire said in a press release. "We are going to challenge every program in state government with a series of tough questions to ensure we are getting the best value for the most essential functions of state government."
Gregoire says it's time to rethink the way government operates, because it could be a long time before tax streams rebound to pre-recession levels.
The governor said in the press release that she will be asking state agencies to answer questions about their spending requests. The questions will focus on three categories:
- 1. Is the activity an essential service?
- 2. Does state government have to perform the activity, or can it be provided by others?
- 3. Can the activity be eliminated or delayed in recessionary times?
- 4. Does the activity need to be paid for with state general funds? Should users pay a portion of the costs?
- 5. Are there federal funds or other fund sources available to support this activity?
- 6. Are there more cost-effective, efficient ways to do the activity?
- 7. Can the activity be the subject of a performance contract?
- 8. Can the activity be the subject of a performance incentive?
The governor is also convening a big panel of expert advisers to help work out budget problems.