Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I want to thank all of you who came to our 8th District town hall meetings recently. We had great turnouts with some excellent questions and dialogue. I appreciate your willingness to be involved.
Here in Olympia, we received our most recent revenue forecast via the state's Economic and Revenue Forecast Council. The updated forecast shows that the state is expected to take in about $780 million less in revenues over the next two years. The latest drop in revenue was mitigated slightly by good news in a caseload forecast but still brings our expected budget shortfall for the 2011-13 biennium to around $5.1 billion dollars. This disappointing news clearly illustrates why the Legislature must remain focused on getting Washington working again. While reforming state government and eliminating certain programs will be necessary, we also have to focus our efforts in passing legislation that will help get people back to work.
It's also important to note that there is already talk of a special session to deal with our budget shortfall. This seems entirely premature. We've known about $4.6 billion of our $5.1 billion shortfall since last November, yet have very little to show for that knowledge. I believe we can still solve our budget problem without raising taxes and WITHIN the constitutionally-mandated 105-day regular session. Each day the Legislature goes into overtime costs taxpayers around $20,000. I expect budget writers to release their budget proposals sometime next week, but don't know for sure.
As budget writers release their ideas, one of the things I'm going to be watching out for is higher education funding. Higher education has taken a beating the last couple of budgets. To me, this is counterproductive as our state and country try to dig out of this recession. We're going to need a skilled, educated workforce moving forward. To read my recent press release on higher education, click here.
As always, feel free to contact my office with any questions or concerns you may have. It is truly an honor to serve you in Olympia.