Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The Legislature is now turning its greatest focus to the budget. With revenues coming in less than projected spending, the state had about a $1.5 billion shortfall when we began session in January. The state's revenue forecast released Feb. 16 revealed we are still expected to bring in more tax revenues than the previous budget, and, for the first time in quite a while, the revenues were above what was projected in the last quarter. This news, combined with fewer people dependent on state government services, means the Legislature has about $431 million less of a shortfall to balance. We still have a long ways to go in the economic recovery, but I am hopeful we can come back stronger than ever.
Supplemental operating budgets released
House Republicans released the first supplemental operating budget this year on Feb. 17 following the state's revenue forecast. I am proud to support this proposal, which protects the most vulnerable, fully funds levy equalization, and prioritizes public safety measures – all without raising the state sales tax. The House Democrats released their proposal on Feb. 21. The majority of their proposal relies on putting off funding and giving additional taxing authority to local governments to recoup spending reductions. The Seattle Times had this to say about their proposal: Washington's House Democrats' budget irresponsibly pushes problems ahead.
The most egregious component of the proposal is that they propose to delay apportionment for school districts into the next biennium in order to “save” $330 million.
The “agency under spending” category of the House Republican proposal would use funds that agencies typically under spend what they were allocated each year. These savings should go back into the general fund and be redistributed to schools, programs for the most vulnerable and public safety.
The scourge of gangs in the Yakima Valley has led to many proposals over the years to define gangs, increase penalties and allow the use of civil anti-gang injunctions. I also believe an important component of fighting gangs is providing prevention and intervention to “turn off the faucet” into gangs. The House Republican budget sets aside $2.5 million for gang prevention programs around the state. Unfortunately, the proposal to allow for the use of injunctions, sponsored by Democrat Chris Hurst, is considered “dead” for the year. My Yakima Valley colleagues and I are committed to getting this proposal into law for our local communities.
The proposals put out by Democrats and Republicans show a sharp contrast in priorities. House Republicans focused on education, public safety and the most vulnerable. We suggest reducing spending more to focus on the core functions of government. Leaving more in reserves will lead to a long-term sustainable budget solution. See the table below comparing resources and spending reductions by area.
I'm very concerned the majority party is proposing to:
- shift funding to levy equalization and eventually cut funding in late 2013;
- reduce funding to critical access hospitals in rural areas by 10 percent;
- reduce community supervision of sex offenders from 36 months to 24 months;
- protect the levels of benefits of state employees with jobs while reducing support for people with developmental disabilities seeking jobs;
- keep large programs not identified as a priority of government on life support; and
- leave less in reserves.
You can read more about the two different budget proposals here. I would appreciate hearing from you on these proposals; please feel free to ask questions to better understand the budget.
It's an honor to be your representative.