Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Here is a quick budget update on floor action that happened this week. I'll continue to send these snapshots in an effort to keep you informed about the process, contents and outcomes of the various budget proposals and ideas being considered in the Legislature. I hope these periodic updates help you better understand the budget decisions being made in Olympia – decisions that will have an impact on you, your family, your job and your communities.
As usual, if you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact my office. It is a pleasure serving you in Olympia.
Substitute House Bill 1086 – not “early action” but “delayed reaction”
House Democrats passed a budget proposal Monday that includes $222 million in reductions and $58.6 million in fund transfers. In total, the budget bill reduces the nearly $600 million shortfall for the remainder of the 2011 fiscal year by about $346 million. I voted against the bill because of several concerns:
The budget proposal by the majority party is not transparent and continues to fuel public mistrust:
- The public expects straightforward budgeting with no gimmicks and no backroom deals to raise fees.
- The proposal put forth by the majority party includes reauthorization language for 10 different fee increases. I believe the voters have spoken on the matter of fee increases. If budget writers want to raise fees, separate legislation should be introduced for each fee and the appropriate policy committees should add their input with public comment.
- An honest, transparent budget does not push spending into the next biennium while claiming it as “savings” today.
- There is a special education safety net award that usually comes onto the books in the spring. SHB 1086 includes language to push the accounting for that allocation past the June 30 biennial line, thus creating fictional “savings” in the current budget.
- Their proposal is unsustainable and fails to prioritize and reform state government.
- We need to eliminate entire programs in the next two-year operating budget. Why not do it now and capture those savings? Why pay for programs today that we can't afford tomorrow?
- We must use this as an opportunity to reduce the size of government rather than simply chipping away at programs until they become completely ineffective.
- Education is bearing the unnecessary brunt of “business as usual” because sacred cows continue to graze.
- Their proposal retroactively takes money away from schools ($42 million), removes teachers from classrooms, punishes school districts for budgeting responsibly, and continues a theme of broken promises the majority party has perpetuated in past budgets.
The chart below shows that over 27 percent of the House Democrat budget proposal is taken from public schools. This is not protecting our state constitutional mandate. We can do better.
I joined my House Republican colleagues in offering a striking amendment on the House floor that included $253 million in non-gimmick reductions and fewer fund transfers. Our proposal would have reduced the current budget shortfall by about $363 million.
Our budget solution protects education and promotes long-term solutions by eliminating entire programs like General Assistance Unemployable (GAU), recently rebranded as Disability Lifeline, and the Basic Health Plan. It also lessens the impacts to long-term care facilities.
- Our proposal does not touch the K-4 teacher enhancement dollars that are taken by the majority party's proposal. We don't believe you take back funds that have already been budgeted and used to hire new teachers. Where are school districts supposed to get this money? And how can they budget in the future if they have to continue looking over their shoulders at the Legislature to see if promised funds are scheduled to be “recalled?”
- GAU is a state-funded program designed to provide temporary assistance to those deemed unemployable as they transition onto Social Security. However, there is currently a federal program (General Assistance Expedited) that does this. Taxpayers expect the Legislature to end duplicitous programs and streamline the delivery of services.
Simply put, the HRC solution begins the process of sustainable, accountable and transparent budgeting. We are willing to make the necessary decisions to eliminate entire programs because we understand it puts us in a much better position heading into the next two-year operating budget.