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Gregoire Previews Budget Cuts, Wants To Reopen Union Contracts

Austin Jenkins


OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington's largest state employee union says 'no' to higher health care premiums. Governor Chris Gregoire Wednesday asked the unions to reopen their labor contracts. The move comes on the eve of the governor's big budget cutting announcement scheduled for Thursday.

Washington has a $1.4 billion budget problem. Now the governor says she needs to negotiate another increase in what state employees pay for their health care.

State workers previously agreed to increase their share of insurance premiums from 12 percent to 15 percent. The Washington Federation of State Employees responds Gregoire should ask corporations — not state workers — to sacrifice.

Gregoire says Washington needs to find a total of $2 billion in cuts to rebalance the current budget and create a cash reserve. In an interview, she warned her proposed cuts go deep into the prison system.

"I have the vestiges of a Department of Corrections left both institutionally and at the community level," Gregoire said. "It's concerning to me because public safety has to be one of our most important responsibilities. But nothing could be exempted from this process."

Gregoire says after she presents her so-called "preferred" cuts list she will turn her attention to possible new revenues. But she says that doesn't necessarily mean taxes. Fees are an option too.

The Democratic governor has called lawmakers back to the Capitol in late November for a special budget cutting session.

Copyright 2011 Northwest News Network