Haler and Klippert vote against spending proposal put forth by majority party
The Washington State House of Representatives today passed a spending plan to partially address the nearly $600 million budget hole for the remainder of 2011 and to begin the process of closing the state’s fiscal books for the 2009-11 biennium.
Both representatives from the 8th Legislative District voted against the plan, saying it placed too much of a burden on education by taking back money retroactively from school districts.
“This just rips at the heart and soul of our communities and our state,” said Rep. Larry Haler, R-Richland. “Basic and higher education are bearing the brunt of these budget cuts unnecessarily. There are other programs that are going to have to be cut in the next two-year budget cycle; we should eliminate these programs now and fulfill our state constitutional mandate of fully funding education.
“Instead, we again fail education. We again fail the test our state constitution puts before us,” Haler said.
Substitute House Bill 1086 makes about $222 million in cuts and utilizes about $58 million in selective fund transfers. Along with other budgetary adjustments, the proposal fills in approximately $346 million of the nearly $600 million budget hole for 2011.
A good portion of the cuts are a result of retroactively taking money back from school districts – money that has been budgeted by the districts, and, in many cases, already used to hire additional elementary school teachers.
“This budget proposal continues to perpetuate a cycle of broken promises by the majority party,” said Rep. Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick. “How can school districts make future budgets if they’re constantly having to look over their shoulders to see if the Legislature is coming back to them with their hands out? Can you imagine an employer trying to get away with that? ‘Hey, you know that money I gave you last payday? Well, I’m going to need that back. Yes, I know you already bought groceries with it, but I need it back.’ It’s disingenuous and sets a horrible precedent.”
House Republicans offered a striking amendment that cut $253 million in spending, utilized less fund transfers, and kept the K-4 teacher enhancement money intact. Instead, House Republicans chose to cut certain social service programs that will have to be cut to plug the multi-billion budget shortfall for the 2011-13 biennium. Their reasoning, said Klippert and Haler, is it’s better to eliminate these programs now rather than keeping them on life support and making further cuts to education.
One of the programs in question is the state’s General Assistance Unemployable program (GAU), recently rebranded as Disability Lifeline. GAU is supposed to be a temporary program for those deemed unable to work and who are transitioning onto federally funded social security.
“Everything we’re hearing from the budget leaders in our caucus points us to the fact that we simply can’t close the multi-billion dollar budget hole for the next two-year operating budget without completely eliminating certain programs,” Haler said. “And frankly, GAU is one of them. We can’t keep chipping around the edges for a dollar here and a dollar there. At some point, you chip away at programs to the point where they become completely ineffective. If we know we’re going to have to reform government by eliminating this program in the future, why pay for it today?”
Klippert also expressed frustration that the majority party’s budget proposal includes necessary reauthorization for certain fee increases.
“The Legislature shouldn’t be hiding the reauthorization for fee increases within the pages of a huge spending bill,” Klippert said. “The voters made it very clear in November – as they have numerous times before – that they want raising taxes and fees to be a serious undertaking; something deliberated openly and honestly with public input. If the majority party wants to raise taxes or fees, those proposals need to be in separate legislation and sent to the appropriate policy committees to be studied and deliberated. Honesty and transparency need to be re-established with the public; this proposal does neither.”
###Washington State House Republican Communications