NASELLE - The Naselle Youth Camp may close in a year.
Facing what some estimate might be a $6 billion budget deficit in the next two-year budget cycle, Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire's budget released Thursday proposes a number of cuts, including closing Naselle Youth Camp.
The governor's plan - which is a proposal for the Legislature to consider when it begins meeting next month - would close the Naselle youth correctional facility on Jan. 1, 2010.
In all, about 126 full-time equivalent psitions would be cut from the Juvenile Rehabilitation Division of the Department of Social and Health Services, with 85 of those jobs coming from Pacific County, or about 68 percent of the total.
This is what the governor's proposal states: "Close Naselle Youth Camp: The Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration currently has the residential capacity to house 835 youth (248 at Maple Lane, 184 at Green Hill, 224 at Echo Glen, 110 at Naselle, and 69 in community facilities).
"The November 2008 residential caseload forecast projects a drop in residential population of over 100 youth, lowering the amount of beds needed for Fiscal Year 2011 to only 658. The savings captured here are based on fully closing the Naselle Youth Camp on January 1, 2010."
All told, the Juvenile Rehabilitation cuts would save about $24.2 million, a 10.4 percent decrease from current spending.
According to the Pacific County Economic Development Council, the Youth Camp is the county's fifth-largest employer overall. With declines in the timber industry, it is far and away the largest employer in the southeastern quarter of the county.
It is a major factor in the finances of the Naselle-Grays River Valley School District. Students at the camp provide a variety of services to the Department of Natural Resources in the county and elsewhere.
The camp faced closure during the state's last financial crisis, but was saved by legislative intervention and a gradual improvement in state revenues.
Gregoire was following a campaign pledge when she unveiled her no-new-taxes budget plan. It is designed to fix a nearly $6 billion deficit by whacking spending, suspending voter initiatives and borrowing some money.
Spending cuts would be felt across state government, including K-12 and higher education, social services, prisons, health programs and state parks.
The proposal will draw howls of protest from all corners of the state, particularly among interest groups who benefited during the Democratic governor's first term, when state spending jumped by about a third.
The Legislature, controlled by Democrats, convenes Jan. 12 to begin its work on the two-year budget. Unlike Gregoire, majority lawmakers have not explicitly ruled out some form of tax increases.
In a statement, Gregoire cast the national recession as both the culprit behind Washington's deficit and the reason not to raise taxes on consumers and businesses.
"Our state is not immune and our revenue - largely reliant on a sales tax - is down dramatically, resulting in the largest budget gap in state history," she said.
As expected, Gregoire would help bridge the deficit by suspending, at least partially, two voter-backed education initiatives. Teacher pay raises would be skipped entirely during the 2009-2011 fiscal years, and money for reducing class sizes would be cut by about a quarter.
Gregoire wants to drop pay raises for state workers, who recently wrapped up contract negotiations calling for average yearly raises of about 2 percent, and raises for home-care workers.
Skipping the raises for teachers, state employees and home-care workers would save about $678 million over two years, Gregoire said.
Gregoire's budget also would delay stepped-up training for home-care aides, the most expensive chunk of Initiative 1029, which was approved just last month.
She also would tap the state's new Rainy Day Fund, created by voters for budget emergencies, and pull about $204 million in lottery proceeds out of the state's construction budget, replacing it by selling bonds.
Higher education would take a hit, with across-the-board budget cuts of 13 percent at four-year schools and 6 percent for community and technical colleges.
Students would pay more to help fill that gap, with proposed tuition hikes for resident undergraduates ranging up to $450 per year, but Gregoire also proposes a bump in financial aid.
Big chunks of savings will come from social and health services, which are seeing overall cuts of more than 12 percent.
Money for the state's Basic Health Plan, which provides health care for people making less than $22,800 a year, would be cut 42 percent, and enrollment reduced. The projected savings: $252 million.
Gregoire also would end cash payments and treatment subsidies for disabled people and addicts who cannot work.
Eliminating those grants would save about $161 million, and cutting health coverage saves another $251 million - although Gregoire said health coverage for old, blind and disabled people under the program would continue, along with those who qualify for Social Security disability.