Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Last week I was in Olympia for “Assembly Days,” a pre-session meeting of committees to discuss work completed since this year's session ended in April and potential legislation for the 2011 Legislature.
In addition, we were called into a special session Saturday the 11th to start work addressing the $1.1 billion shortfall for the current 2009-2011 budget. Starting two weeks ago, various suggestions were drafted to address this financial challenge:
- House Republican proposal (Nov. 30)
- Governor's proposal (Dec. 1)
- Senate Republican proposal (Dec. 1)
- House Democrat proposal (Dec. 3)
- Agreed-upon reductions (Dec. 10)
I was encouraged that Republicans had a place at the table and both parties were able to work together to find an agreement.
Saturday, we voted on legislation to make $588 million in reductions to the budget. I voted 'yes' because I believe it preserved the priorities and began work to address our state's finances.
The $588 million reduction included:
- $490 million in spending reductions throughout state government, including some of the across-the-board reductions ordered by the governor;
- $44 million from a tax amnesty bill that temporarily removes the penalties on small businesses so they can pay their back taxes; and
- $54 million in fund transfers.
Those reductions also:
- preserve levy equalization dollars for our rural districts;
- do not reduce payments to nursing homes or other long-term care facilities;
- minimize reductions to Medicaid; and
- keep Larch Corrections Center open.
By approving these reductions Saturday rather than waiting until January, the state saves $250 million. This is just a start and buys us time to find long-term solutions to put our state on a sustainable path for budgeting. It's been quite some time since the state's expenditures matched its revenues.
The 2011 Legislature is scheduled to convene Jan. 10. Please feel free to contact my office in Olympia with any questions or if you would like to meet with me in district.
It is an honor to serve you.