Haler says House Republican budget proposal more sustainable, more transparent and more balanced than Democrat budget

In a late night House Ways and Means Committee hearing, a budget plan proposed by House Democrats passed by a vote along party lines, 16-11.  The budget proposal fills the state’s projected $5.1 billion shortfall with about $4.4 billion in policy cuts, with the rest coming from budget transfers and other one-time money.

An alternative budget, proposed earlier by minority House Republicans via a striking amendment in committee, was rejected by the same party-line vote.  The Republican proposal would have reduced spending by about a half billion dollars more and did not use one-time money for ongoing programs.

Rep. Larry Haler, R-Richland and a member of the committee, was disappointed by the committee’s actions, calling the Republican plan “more sustainable, more transparent and more balanced.”

“The budget put forth by the majority party has a lot of similarities to the one we’ve proposed,” Haler said.  “I know budget leaders from both sides of the aisle have spent countless hours working together.  However, in the end, there are some very fundamental differences reflected in the two opposing budgets.”

Haler said the Republican alternative budget plan is more sustainable in the long run because it doesn’t rely on questionable funding sources or budgetary gimmicks.

“I have a real problem with their idea of leasing out the state’s liquor distribution center for a one-time, upfront payment of $300 million to the state.  This part of their budget has already been ‘booked’ but hasn’t been studied enough,” Haler said.  “It’s going to cost us about $65 million per year in lost tax revenue.  Over the 20-year lease agreement, that initial $300 million payment will be covered in just five years, while the reduction in taxes will continue for another 15 years.  This is a bad investment.”

Haler said the era of the Legislature adopting unsustainable budgets is over.

“The Legislature has passed – and the governor has signed – budgets they knew were unsustainable,” Haler said.  “The multi-billion dollar budget shortfalls of the last couple of years were due, in part, to the short-sighted actions of enacting spending plans the didn’t line up with projected revenues.  This practice has to end.  And, while the majority party’s budget is more fundamentally sound than their past budget proposals, I believe our budget is much more sustainable and puts us in a much better position to exit this recession.”

Other significant differences between the two proposals can be seen in how each prioritizes spending.

Rather than spread the budget cuts around like peanut butter and keeping expensive programs alive on life-support, Haler said the Republican proposal identifies priorities and redirects funding for those priorities.

“In our budget, we focus on three main priorities: education, public safety and protecting the most vulnerable citizens,” Haler said.  “Our budget proposal has more money for education and treats it like the constitutional mandate that it is.  We also don’t let criminals out early to save money, and we actually increase correctional staffing.  We also don’t cut Medicaid payments like they do and we put more resources into community clinics.”

Haler said the process of putting out a budget was a lengthy and difficult one, but worth the effort.

“This is the first time in a long time that the minority party has put forth a complete budget proposal,” Haler said.  “Citizens will be able to judge for themselves which budget – which set of priorities – they prefer.”

The House Democrat budget is expected to pass off the House floor on Saturday.

The 105-day regular session is scheduled to end on April 24.


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Washington State House Republican Communications