Locke's budget would override initiatives

Washington Gov. Gary Locke Tuesday unveiled a state budget plan that targets education and health care programs for deep cuts by overriding three voter-approved initiatives.

Locke’s budget plan would save $229 million by withholding cost-of-living raises to public school teachers, as authorized by Initiative 732 in 2000.

The plan also would reserve $221 million by not fully funding Initiative 728 – also approved in 2000 – which local districts use for reducing classroom sizes for offering summer school, among other local needs.

Locke also wants to use additional cigarette taxes earmarked for increasing enrollment in the state’s Basic Health Plan for the poor to pay for the plan’s existing members. The cigarette tax hike was approved by voters in 2001.

Lawmakers are facing a projected state budget deficit of more than $2 billion in a political climate that is perennially averse to new taxes.

While Lock’s plan presumes no new taxes, he told reporters Tuesday that he would not be opposed to modest tax increases.