Governor Gregoire held the first of four public budget hearings Monday night at the UW extension campus in Tacoma. In addition to welcoming public comment and input on the 2011-2013 budget, the hearing highlighted the Governor’s Committee on Transforming Washington’s Budget.
The two hour session opened with Office of Financial Management (OFM) senior budget assistants speaking about the value of their core government services: Education, Human Services, Economic Development, General Government, Public Safety and Natural Resources.
Kirstan Arestad, Senior Budget Assistant of the Natural Resources agency of the OFM highlighted the fact that only two percent (2%) of the State’s general budget goes to Natural Resources (in addition to land, “Natural Resources” also includes cultural and recreational resources). However, more than $40 million in cuts have been made during the 2009-2011 budget.
Marty Brown, Director of the OFM, opened the microphones to public comment after the first hour. He noted there were 140 people who had signed up for the opportunity to speak. Each speaker was allotted two minutes.
Constituents frequently identified human and health services as essential budgetary items. However, environmental, natural resources and wildlife advocacy groups also got in the mix:
- Joanna Grist, Executive Director of Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition, urged the Governor not to cut wildlife and recreation items from the budget. She believes we need to preserve these lands and wildlife habitat for future generations. A representative of the coalition also spoke about the importance of its Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program grant program.
- The Sierra Club had two speakers championing a “cleaner and healthier” future.
- Climb Against Coal member Jennifer Williams spoke out against tax subsidies accorded to Canadian owned TransAlta in exchange for the company lowering the emissions of its Centralia plant.
- Finally, Mary Dodsworth of the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office defended state spending on parks and land acquisition, especially when land is cheap and when the dollar given by the state is matched or outspent by other non-profits (that is, the state gets out more than it puts in).
The next public hearing will be this Wednesday, July 21 at Everett Community College. Trail runners who support continued funding of state parks and DNR land may wish to attend. Show up early to get on the list of speakers representing your cause.
Those who wish to submit further comments to the Governor may also do so via the new online commentary website: Transforming Washington’s Budget.
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