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Governor anxious to whack state budget further


Governor Chris Gregoire wants an agreement from Republican and Democratic lawmakers on a package of immediate cuts to the state's budget by the end of this week.

She floated a raft of program cuts right before Thanksgiving.  The governor has proposed ending the state’s Basic Health Plan, eliminating certain disability payments, and trimming college financial aid.

The state faces a $400 million shortfall in the budget that ends in June next year.  The projected deficit for the 2011-13 budget is close to $6 billion.

Gregoire presided over a seven hour meeting of agency directors on Sunday.

“If they said to me, ‘You really can’t cut this,’ I’ve said, find me another place to cut. You can’t just tell me I can’t. You’ve got to tell me where else I can cut,” she said.

The governor added there’s no time for delay. She asking for agreement this week on a plan that could lead to a one-day special session of the legislature. That could mean an agreement on cuts to the current budget before Christmas.

However, several Democratic legislative leaders say they would prefer to wait until the regular session convenes in January. Then they could take a systematic look at the entire state budget.

Tom Banse covers national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reports from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events are unfolding. Tom's stories can be found online and heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.