In September, Governor Christine Gregoire called for a special session, which will begin on Nov. 28, after state economist Dr. Arun Raha estimated a $1.4 billion budget shortfall for 2011-2013.
As Washington State legislators address this budget shortfall, the question is…
What will our Eastern Washington legislators’ priorities be? We researched and asked, and came up with some highlights from our Eastern Washington delegation that will be present during the Special Legislative Session. This is not all each representative will focus on, but a sample.
3rd District Senator Lisa Brown says that budget cuts were too deep in education. If we continue to “thin the soup,” we will undermine our values and aspirations to provide a first class education for all children in Washington, Senator Brown says. She is proud of the progress made in early learning programs. In the 2011 Session, she supported the continuation of funding for schools currently offering all-day kindergarten, and is pleased that the number of schools offering all-day kindergarten will increase over the next two years.
3rd District Representative Timm Ormsby supports state investments that will put people to work and help make Spokane a better place to live, work and raise a family. As vice chair of the House Capital Budget Committee, Ormsby helped to craft a construction spending plan that pays for school construction, public facilities and infrastructure projects.
Andy Billig, 3rd District Representative, advocates for raising new revenue to help the state avoid drastic cuts that will harm businesses and families in Spokane, such as cuts to levy equalization and higher education. He supports taking a stand against budget cuts and instead finding ways to raise new revenue. He is particularly against cuts to the Basic Health plan, a state program that provides subsidized health insurance for low income citizens. He believes that less funding for this health insurance program will be more expensive in the long run.
Jeff Baxter, 4th District Senator, believes there are programs on the books that the state can’t afford. Senator Baxter voted against the state’s original operating budget, saying that he could not support a spending plan that raises taxes and fees on struggling families and businesses. One cost-saving reform the Senator supports is Senate Bill 5842 which would enable private contractors to conduct recovery audits of payments made by state agencies to non-state entities, audit fraud in Medicaid, Social Services, general state operations, and other programs, and collect from those cheating the system.
Larry Crouse, 4th District Representative, supports protecting tax incentives. Crouse pointed out that, in the first ten years after the Legislature adopted a tax incentive that exempted sales tax on manufacturing and equipment, it created 285,000 new jobs. For Crouse, eliminating tax incentives will lead to the elimination of jobs.
To meet the current budget shortfall, 4th District Representative Matt Shea proposes that the state eliminate programs such as bonuses for state employees who carpool, not allow EBT cards to be misused, require proof of continuing residency for welfare and food stamps, restructure DSHS and eliminate many mid- and upper level management positions, and prevent state government from further increasing costs against employers. He believes our focus should be on job creation in the private sector, not raising taxes.
Senator Michael Baumgartner, 6th District, believes the best thing the Legislature can do to fix the state’s budget problem is to encourage job growth. He advocates for pro-small business reforms that reduce government red tape and make our state more business-competitive. He plans to support reforms similar to Senate Bill 5500, which reduces the cost of government regulation on small business.
For John Ahern, 6th District Representative, education is a high priority. He believes that the current budget funds social programs that the state cannot afford while sacrificing education. He promises to offer solutions to find ways we can achieve savings in state services while providing the most important priorities of government to taxpayers.
Kevin Parker, 6th District Representative, says his priorities in the November 2011 Special Session will be on job growth, efficiencies and fundamental reform. In his statement on the budget shortfall, Representative Parker said he supports solutions introduced earlier this year that can now be passed to create jobs and harness our state’s entrepreneurial spirit.
Bob Morton, 7th District Senator, supports the preservation of levy equalization dollars for K-12 education, and the way that districts receive funding for school bus depreciation, because both of these issues are critical for small, rural school districts. He is against using budget gimmicks, tapping into the state’s rainy-day fund and spending more than projected revenues.
For Joel Kretz, 7th District Representative, the most urgent issue facing the Legislature is ensuring a sustainable budget that lives within our means without raising taxes and fees. He says we need to solve state budget problems by first looking at critical government reforms and efficiencies, then focusing on how the state can encourage private-sector job creation and retention.
7th District Representative Shelly Short is against deep cuts to education without the necessary reforms, as it only deepens the divide between the rural and urban school districts. She is against putting public safety at risk by cutting funds from the Department of Corrections. She also supports maintaining Medicaid funding, programs that help developmentally disabled citizens find work, and funding for long-term care facilities.
9th District Senator Mark Schoesler supports funding for higher-education institutions. He advocates for increased support for K-12 education. Although the amount of funding allocated in the 2011 Legislative session was not as large as he would have liked, he is pleased that levy equalization funding was preserved, as this was his top priority.
9th District Representative Susan Fagan hopes that the budget gap can be covered by looking at critical reforms that can save money and make state agencies more efficient before reductions in education, public safety and other vital programs that serve the disabled and elderly are considered. She is against across-the-board cuts, she says, because it treats every service the same.
Joe Schmick, 9th District Representative, believes the state’s paramount duty is to education. He is against increasing taxpayer expense through new or increased fees. He is committed to protecting public safety funding and programs for the most vulnerable in society such as Medicaid funding, work programs for the developmentally disabled, and long-term care facilities.
So now you have an idea of what legislators from our Eastern Washington delegation believe the state’s top priorities are. The Special Legislative Session begins Nov. 28. You can also get some insight at our Annual Legislative Forum & Reception Nov. 22.