Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and a great start to the new year of 2012!
Legislative session begins Jan. 9
With the holidays now behind us, the Legislature will begin its scheduled 60-day session on Monday in Olympia. The biggest issue before us is how to close a $1.5 billion budget shortfall. As you may recall, we ended a 17-day special session in mid-December after the Legislature adopted a partial solution that reduced the budget by less than $480 million. Some called that plan a “duct-tape fix.” I recently sent an opinion editorial to our local newspapers and chambers of commerce discussing this issue and what we need to do to close the budget gap. I've included the article below and encourage you to read it.
There's still time to vote in my survey!
The governor has proposed a half-billion dollar state sales tax increase as a solution to the budget shortfall. I believe we need to increase JOBS, not taxes, to bring in revenue to the budget. We also need to prioritize spending. Last month, I asked for your opinion about her tax increase proposal. That poll will remain open until 5 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 9. Your viewpoint is very important to me. If you haven't voted in the survey, I encourage you to do so now while the poll is still open. Go here to take the survey: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/KristiansenTaxSurveyDec2011.
Redistricting Commission redraws legislative boundaries
Last week, the Washington State Redistricting Commission adopted a plan to redraw lines for legislative and congressional districts. There are changes to the 39th District – most notably that it would no longer extend to the Canadian border. It would still take in a large portion of Skagit and Snohomish counties and a portion of northeast King County. Here is the final legislative map unanimously adopted by the bipartisan commission after a year-long process. If you would like to compare the changes, you can find a map of the current district boundaries here: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/DistrictFinder/default.aspx?District=39.
The final detailed report to the Legislature will be published Jan. 9. The Legislature may make minor adjustments within 30 days, but does not vote on the overall plan. After this, with or without changes, the redistricting plan becomes law. The new districts will take effect for the November election this year.
Mark your calendar for my teleforum!
Make sure to keep your calendar open for Tuesday, Jan. 24, from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. That's when I will be holding a district-wide telephone town hall meeting. I'll provide more details in a subsequent e-mail, including a phone number for you to call and participate. I'm looking forward to hearing from you!
My office is here to serve you!
As the new session gets under way, I want to encourage you to continue contacting my office any time you have questions, comments or suggestions regarding state government. You can stay in touch through my Web site at houserepublicans.wa.gov/Kristiansen and follow bills and committee hearings through the legislative Web site at: www.leg.wa.gov. Committee hearings and floor action are also broadcast on TVW and on its Web site at www.tvw.org.
Thank you for the honor of allowing me to serve you!
Washington's citizens deserve better than 'duct-tape' budget fixes
When lawmakers arrived Nov. 28 at the state Capitol for a special session, many of my fellow legislators and I were hopeful we could vote within the first couple days on a solution that would close a $2 billion state operating budget gap without raising taxes — and then go home, thus saving taxpayers the expense of an extended session. To our dismay, the majority party had no plan ready — even 67 days after Gov. Gregoire announced a special session. It took another 16 days before a plan emerged — and then the measure (House Bill 2058) was only a partial solution that reduced the budget by less than $480 million. Most disappointing, there were no reforms to prioritize spending in the state budget, as we had proposed.
Republican Leader Richard DeBolt described it this way during a speech on the House floor: “This is something we could have done in a day. This is not a plan. This is not a grand design. This is one of those duct-tape fixes.”
I compare it to making the minimum payment on a credit card. The balance on the credit card doesn't go away and the expenses continue to grow.
Certainly I'm disappointed, but not surprised the Legislature kicked the can down the road once again. It has historically and repeatedly avoided facing reality – even when reality is staring it in the face.
For example, in 2007 when the state was enjoying a multi-billion dollar revenue surplus, that would have been the time to set money aside for difficult times ahead. During an interview in March 2007 on TVW, I said, “Economists know that every 10 to 12 years, we're going to go throu
gh a recession. Quite frankly, we are due for one in a short amount of time and we've got to be prepared. We need to be taking more aggressive steps to make sure we have good money sitting there.”
Instead, the Legislature ignored those warnings and spent all of the surplus. It was 20 months later the economy dipped into recession — and the state was ill-prepared. Since then, the Legislature has adopted patchwork fixes on budgets that evolve into deficits because majority party leaders refuse to accept economic realities and the state refuses to live within its means. The governor thinks a half-billion dollar state sales tax increase is the solution, but the Washington State Wire, an online Capitol news outlet, noted, “State spending is so far out of line with tax revenue that even if lawmakers pass a dilly of a tax increase this year, they're going to be back again next year facing the same problem, and the next, and the next.” Without reforms, it said the state could be facing a budget deficit exceeding $7 billion by 2017.
When the Legislature meets in regular session beginning Jan. 9, it has a $1.5 billion budget problem remaining. Businesses and families sat down a long time ago and adjusted their budgets to economic realities. It's time the Legislature does the same. That means no more kicking the can down the road. It means setting spending priorities so that we fund education, public safety and protection of our state's most vulnerable citizens, and abandon non-essential services and programs that have been a drag on the budget. It also means focusing on private-sector job creation that will spur additional state revenue as people have incomes to spend more.
In 2010, after the majority party passed $800 million in tax increases that voters later repealed, a Seattle Times editorial injected a dose of common sense the Legislature could use today, saying, “The people and their legislators need to put further tax increases out of their minds. They need to reset government so that its appetite matches its revenue. The state must live within the revenue it has. Gov. Gary Locke did it seven years ago. He called it Priorities of Government and it worked.”
Washington's citizens deserve better than a duct-tape budget. The solution is for the Legislature to return to a budget based on Priorities of Government without tax increases — a budget that is sustainable and forces the state to do what the rest of us must — to live within its means.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Rep. Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish, serves as chairman of the Washington House Republican Caucus and represents the 39th Legislative District. He can be contacted at (360) 786-7967 or e-mail him through his Web site at: houserepublicans.wa.gov/Kristiansen. His office address is: P.O. Box 40600, Olympia, WA 98504-0600.
In your service,