New official picks up torch to save Wash. State Library

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - It's turning into an unofficial hazing ritual for Washington's secretary of state: Win the election, get sworn in, then go fight to save the State Library from budget cuts suggested by the governor or the Legislature.

Just 2 1/2 months after taking office, Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman is following the footsteps of her predecessor, Sam Reed, in fighting against a proposed fund reduction for the library's operations.

In the Republican-led budget that is headed to the House after the Senate passed it Friday, general-fund money is stripped from the library, which was relocated from the Capitol a decade ago and is housed in Tumwater. Not only does the fund source change, the library's budget is cut by $632,000 and the money earmarked for the library might not be enough to run it.

"Clearly we have a lot of work to do," Wyman said in an interview. "But these are issues that have not gone away."

The Senate plan is to move the financing for library operations into a capital budget fund previously set up to pay for a future Heritage Center that would have housed the library back on the Capitol Campus. But that project went into a deep freeze during the recession, and money accumulating in the fund from real-estate recording fees has been swept to other uses in recent years.

The reason for the fund shift appears to be convenience - half of the library's financing already comes out of the so-called heritage fund because of previous budget maneuvers.

Sen. Andy Hill, the Redmond Republican who chairs the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said the decision was part of a larger "load balancing" of revenue streams and needs.

"As it comes in we try and allocate it in a prioritized manner. Some places get more. Some places get less. I can tell you the process was very thoughtful, very meticulous," Hill said. He added that Democratic Sens. Jim Hargrove of Hoquiam and Sharon Nelson of Maury Island "were in the room as we went through all the decisions."

Assistant Secretary of State Ken Raske said Gov. Jay Inslee was proposing a similar fund shift and that his agency is predicting there will be only $7.7 million in the heritage account, less than the $8.8 million assumed by the Senate and less than the $9.5 million spent now.

The library, which manages state collections and provides assistance to libraries across the state, also runs the Washington Talking Book and Braille Library.

Raske said it is not yet known which library services must be ended if the cuts stick - and that is under the optimistic scenario that $8.8 million flows into the account.

Raske also said the agency is not fighting its share of across-the-board efficiency cuts the Senate is asking for - which total $448,000.

Wyman now must find friends in the House, which is expected to put out its operating budget Wednesday. Getting extra money or restoring the library to the general fund - which Wyman would prefer - could be a tall task, according to Democratic Rep. Sam Hunt of Olympia.

That is because the House budget chairman is not fond of the Heritage Center, Hunt said. "I don't know what we'll do. We'll just have to take a look at it, have some discussion and see where we go," Hunt said.

But Hunt said he was not surprised by the Senate proposal. "They are using smoke and mirrors everywhere they can," he explained.

Raske said Inslee was not insisting upon the $632,000 cut sought by the Senate, and he said there appeared to be a willingness to find extra general-fund money for the library if the agency runs short in the heritage account.