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Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The second special session of 2011 began Nov. 28, and is schedule to last 30 days. The governor announced the special session on Sept. 22. The $32.4 billion budget passed last May assumed a nearly 14 percent increase in tax collections, which amounted to $3.8 billion. In this economy, House Republicans warned that assuming such a jump in tax collections and crafting a budget that included money that was yet to materialize was an irresponsible gamble.
At the end of the first week of the special session, there was absolutely no progress on addressing the $2 billion spending gap in the 2011-13 state operating budget. The governor’s proposal, including a $500 million tax increase on citizens, is on the table. However, the majority party in the House and Senate have not signaled wide support for it, nor have they put forward any alternative solutions. It was made very clear that the Legislature was being called back to address the spending gap in a timely fashion. The fact that no action has been taken on the budget is discouraging. Every day the Legislature is in Olympia it costs taxpayers thousands of dollars that could be better spent on education, public safety and taking care of the most vulnerable among us.
I strongly believe in priorities of government when it comes to crafting the budget. Unfortunately, the governor’s proposal holds kids, the elderly and disabled, and safe communities hostage to new and higher taxes. Telling citizens that the only way we can pay for education, public safety and care for the vulnerable is through a tax increase is untrue and cruel. I believe education, public safety and caring for our most vulnerable are core government responsibilities. So, why is the governor leaving in place programs we can’t afford and increasing budgets for state agencies that are not core services? Here are some examples of why I do not think the governor’s budget is prioritized to fund core services first:
- It cuts funding for senior citizen services by 20 percent while cutting the Department of Ecology total budget by only 4.4 percent;
- It fully funds $11.5 million for state employee step salary increases while cutting $9.2 million from state employment and day services for the developmentally disabled;
- It continues to fund $476,000 for sick-leave cash payments to state employees while cutting $450,000 from funding for the Family Policy Council that supports at-risk youth and families;
- It provides $15.3 million to fully fund a recent initiative (I-1163) that everyone, including herself, has said the state cannot afford while cutting eligibility for certain disability and long-term care services by $14.6 million;
- It maintains 90 percent of funding for the State Energy Policy/Research Office while cutting services for domestic violence legal advocacy and crime victims services by 20 percent; and
- It cuts $27 million in funding for critical access hospitals (the 7th district has several rural hospitals that will be put at risk) but includes $37 million for health care services for undocumented children.
Gone are the days when budget writers can make everything a priority. The housing market is no longer providing extraordinary tax collections. The private sector is sharing in the sacrifice and we believe the public sector workforce, all of the workers not just a select few, should have a hand in solving the spending gap. House Republicans believe the citizens of Washington should not be asked to pay more in taxes to fund state agencies still giving pay raises to some state employees. You can see detailed charts on state spending and the budget in our Report to Taxpayers here.
Let’s get Washington working again
I continue to believe we do not need new and higher taxes, we need more taxpayers. That means getting people back to work and creating a tax and regulatory environment that encourages private-sector job creation. Not only do we need to craft a sustainable and responsible budget during the special session, we believe adopting common-sense proposals that make employers feel confident enough to hire and expand their operations is equally critical. We have offered several proposals this year, and in years past, that do not cost taxpayers a dime but start the process of reforming government in ways that make our tax and regulatory scheme less burdensome for employers so they can do what they do best – create jobs.
If we get our work done in a timely manner and forego the 2012 legislative session, we could save more than $2 million. The governor has said job creation legislation can wait until 2012 but I believe the thousands of Washingtonians who are out of work can’t wait any longer – they want a paycheck, not a government check.
My House Republican colleagues and I are prepared to work toward solutions that put people back to work, reform government and create an environment where everyone can prosper.
As you have likely read in the papers and seen on the news, the first week was a bit crazy with protestors interrupting hearings, attempting to camp in the rotunda and disruptive behavior. The “Occupy” groups that converged on Olympia are protesting the governor’s budget that includes spending adjustments to align with
state tax collections, which are projected to be 6.9 percent higher than the 2009-11 budget, or nearly $2 billion more. Because of the behavior of some of the protestors and the encampment at Heritage Park at Capitol Lake near the dome, there has been extra state patrol and work at the park to address the group. Here are the costs as of Sunday, Dec. 4:
Washington State Patrol:
- $27,000 – Travel, per diem, supplies, etc.;
- $146,000 in overtime; and
- $201,000 in straight time (or salaries the troopers would have been paid for their regular work).
Heritage Park (run by the Washington State Department of Enterprise Services or DES):
- $3,810.93 – Costs for plumbing repairs, some electrical work and other miscellaneous repairs to turf, etc.; and
- $1,037.40 – Trash collection and park clean-up.
The DES spokesman told us the cost estimate to repair the damage to the new turf at Heritage Park, which was installed two years ago, cannot be determined until the “Occupy” group has left the park. At this point, the group has refused to pay for a permit to use the park, so taxpayers are footing the bill not only for security at the Capitol Campus, but also to take care of the non-permitted encampment.
It does not escape us that every taxpayer dollar spent on these protests is a dollar that could pay for services for disabled and elderly citizens, school children and protecting our communities.
I’ll continue to send periodic updates throughout the special session and into the regular 2012 legislative session. Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you. It is an honor and privilege to serve you in Olympia.
State Representative, 7th Legislative District