Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Today marks the beginning of the second week of the scheduled 60-day legislative session. We are facing a number of issues during the session, including closing a $1.5 billion spending gap in the state budget. My goal, however, will be to push for private sector job creation that will help turn our state's economy around.
The Legislature shares the blame
Last Tuesday, in a joint session of the House and Senate, the governor delivered her State of the State address. (You can read her entire address here.) She continued to place the blame of our budget problems on others outside of Washington state. “Wall Street handed us this mess nearly four years ago,” she said.
While there's no question the state's economy was affected by the Wall Street collapse, the reality is that the Legislature got us into this mess by overspending and refusing to put a sizable amount of money (during the budget surplus) in savings for a rainy day.
I warned back in 2007 during an interview on TVW that we needed to be taking more aggressive steps to set aside the surplus for hard times. “Economists know that every 10 to 12 years, we're going to go through a recession. Quite frankly, we are due for one in a short amount of time and we've got to be prepared,” I said. (You may watch that interview by clicking here.)
Unfortunately, we were quite unprepared when we entered this recession because the Legislature was spending far more money than it was taking in. So it wasn't entirely Wall Street's fault. Wall Street has nothing to do with our state's permitting processes, tax structure, and workers' compensation system – all of which affect job creation in our state. It doesn't set the state's rules and regulations. So we can point the blame outward all we want, but it's not productive. We need to look inward at ways to improve our state's business climate. When people are working, they are spending money. This is the way to generate more revenue for our state budget, not tax increases.
You get it! Stopping projected increases are not cuts!
In her State of the State address, the governor also continued saying she has cut to the bone. “We have cut and cut a projected $10.5 billion dollars,” Gregoire said.
But that's just not true. Those are what I call “Olympia cuts.”
The Associated Press got it right in a story back in November when it wrote, “Many of the hundreds of cuts Gregoire and other Democrats have tallied are simply automatic spending increases that didn't end up happening.”
It's the increase in spending they wanted – but didn't get. So now they're calling it a “cut.”
In the e-mails I've received, many have expressed frustration is using these figures as a way to say, “we can't cut any more. We need tax increases.”
One such example is from Katherine in Monroe, who said: “In my view and my family's view, cuts in projected rates of increase are not cuts. Speak with relentless clarity regarding the definition of a cut.” She also added: “We are fully aware that there wouldn't be a budget shortfall if expenditures had not increased far in excess of revenues. Please help it stop!”
You get it! You understand that when the money runs thin in the paycheck, you don't run down to the store and buy a new TV or an iPad. Instead, you prioritize your spending and take care of your most pressing needs.
That's what state government needs to do. The bottom line is this: State government will be receiving nearly $2 billion dollars more in revenue than the previous budget cycle.
We need to prioritize spending – just like you do and just like Katherine and her family does.
Poll results: NO NEW TAXES
After the governor announced a proposal to raise taxes by a half billion dollars through a half-cent increase in the state sales tax, I wanted to know what you thought about this plan. So in December, I created an online budget and tax survey. It's clear the majority of respondents are in no mood for tax increases. You'll see the results of this survey below.
You get it! And that's the challenge we face in Olympia during this legislative session – convincing other lawmakers that we cannot tax and spend our way out of a recession.
We have to go back to the priorities of government and fund the most important core services – and abandon non-essential services and programs that have been a drag on the budget.
Watch my video update
If you'd like more information on the subject matter of this e-mail, I invite you to watch my Legislative Update video by clicking here.
I need to hear from you!
I want to thank you for your letters, e-mails and phone calls. Your input is critical in helping me to fight tax increases and to reform state spending. I encourage you to continue communicating with me as this session moves forward. You'll find my contact information below.
Thank you for the honor of allowing me to serve you!
Budget and Tax Survey
The following are the results of my online survey sent through
our e-mail list to subscribers throughout the 39th District. This gives a snapshot of the views of citizens who completed the survey.
1. What issue is most important to you?
- Jobs and the economy – 64.6%
- The state budget – 27.2%
- Education – 10.9%
- Health care – 10.9%
- Public safety – 2.7%
2. Incoming revenues for the remainder of the two-year budget cycle which ends June 30, 2013 are expected to be nearly $2 billion higher than the previous 2009-11 budget cycle. Yet, the Legislature is trying to close a $2 billion budget gap. Although unemployment remains high across the state, the governor has submitted three bills to raise taxes by more than $835 million (See the Everett Herald report here: Governor delivers three tax bills to lawmakers). She threatens to further cut education unless those bills pass. Yet, several of her natural resource and parks agencies — including the Department of Ecology — have seen INCREASES in their total operating budgets in the 2011-13 spending plan. Considering this information, please check the answer you feel most describes the state budget problem.
- The state has a spending problem and has not properly prioritized spending on most essential needs. The Legislature should re-prioritize spending on education, public safety and the state's most vulnerable citizens, and then decide how to budget remaining revenue without a tax increase – 90.3%
- The state has a revenue and a spending problem. It needs to raise taxes and reduce spending – 8.3%
- The state has a revenue problem and needs to raise taxes to provide adequate funding for all existing programs – 2.8%
3. The governor has proposed raising the state sales tax by .5 percent to generate nearly a half-billion dollars in new tax collections for certain state services. Do you support this tax increase?
- No, I do not support raising the state sales tax – 85.0%
- Yes, I support raising the state sales tax by nearly a half-billion dollars – 12.2%
- Not sure – 4.1%
In your service,