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DSHS Asks Public to Weigh In on Budget Cuts



September 26, 2011

TACOMA, Wash. - Ending the Basic Health Plan and the Disability Lifeline program. Closing residential rehabilitation centers and reducing child protective services. All of these proposals and more are on the table, as Washington state agencies are being asked to cut another 10 percent from their budgets.

Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) Secretary Susan Dreyfus hits the road this week to explain the potential cuts in a series of Town Hall meetings and ask for public input.

DSHS spokesman Thomas Shapley says no cut is definite yet, and his boss is hoping for some helpful feedback to share with the governor. For DSHS, Shapley says a 10 percent cut amounts to $573 million.

"Her idea is not to go out and defend these options - because some of them are indefensible, in her opinion. But this is just laying it out. I don't think she feels like she's going out there to take a beating. I think she's going out there to take a lesson."

The state budget forecasts have been bleak for so long that people might assume their opinions won't matter. However, Pat Dickason, vice president of the League of Women Voters of Washington, says this could be the time they matter most.

"In times like this, we need to look around at our neighbors and say, 'Things are affecting them; they're affecting me.' And it's not just up to some agency or legislator to figure things out. All of us have perspectives that we could share."

The Town Hall meetings this week are in Tacoma on Tuesday and Yakima on Thursday. In October, they are scheduled for Everett, Seattle, Spokane and Vancouver. The times and locations, as well as the DSHS budget presentation and details about the latest potential cuts, can be found on the DSHS website, www.dshs.wa.gov/budget.

The first Town Hall is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 27, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., at Catholic Community Services, 1323 Yakima Ave., Tacoma.

A summary of all the agency budget reduction proposals is available at www.ofm.wa.gov.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA