Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Less than two weeks remain of the 2012 legislative session and the Legislature is finally getting busy with supplemental operating budget plans to close a $1.1 billion shortfall.
The revenue forecast, released Feb. 16, helped to provide some better numbers. Forecast changes due to some improving economic conditions added $32.2 million in revenue. Along with some changes the Legislature made in December, the total revenue increase above the November forecast is nearly $96 million.
Earlier this week, House Democrats released their proposed budget. Last Friday, my House Republican colleagues also unveiled our “All-Priorities Budget.” The differences between the two are like night and day.
I invite you to read through this e-newsletter and then decide which budget you believe would be best for the state of Washington.
Many thanks to all of you who have contacted my office with your questions and comments. It is an honor to serve and represent you.
The House Republican and House Democrat budget proposals – A question of priorities
The House Republican budget is built on the priorities of government model used by Gov. Gary Locke back in 2003. We identified three areas of government that are essential for funding: education, public safety and protection of the state's most vulnerable citizens.
House Republicans would fund education first
In the state constitution, education is singled out as the state's paramount duty. A recent state Supreme Court decision, McCleary v. State, noted the Legislature is not living up to its funding obligations. It said “paramount” means the state must “amply provide for the education of all Washington children as the state's first and highest priority before any other state programs or operations.”
With that in mind, we crafted the House Republican budget to fund education first before any other state appropriations. The “Fund Education First” legislation was a bill I introduced several years ago. This year, the policy measure that would create a separate education budget, House Bill 2533, received a hearing. It has seven Democrat sponsors and is supported by several major education groups around the state. Unfortunately, it did not move out of committee. However, we applied the Fund Education First concept to a stand-alone K-12 education budget, which was released to the public on Feb. 2. You can watch and listen to the news conference here.
House Republican education budget plan versus House Democrats' proposal
There are many differences between the House Republican and House Democrats' operating budget proposals, but some of the major ones center on education funding.
In education, the House Republican plan would:
- Prioritize education as the state's paramount duty and fund education first;
- Fully fund levy equalization (the House Democrats' proposal would shift this payment into the next biennium, which is essentially a $75 million cut in this budget cycle);
- Fund a full 180-day school year (the House Democrats' proposal would delay paying public schools $330 million until the next budget cycle);
- Maintain current funding for all-day kindergarten;
- Include important reforms and increased accountability; and
- Spend $580 million more on K-12 education than the governor – and $375 million more than the House Democrats' proposal.
Under a headline that reads, “Washington's House Democrats' budget irresponsibly pushes problems ahead,” the Seattle Times reviewed the House Democrats' budget plan and wrote that it “would delay paying public schools the final $405 million they are due until the next budget period. They would also drain $96 million from the state's financial reserve and claw back a similar amount from cities and counties, inviting them to raise local sales taxes if they like. These are irresponsible stopgap measures that ignore the urgent need of reform.” Read the full article here. I also invite you to read the Seattle Times article, “Acccounting gimmick is big part of state House budget moves.”
Public safety – Compare
My fellow House Republicans and I are committed to keeping our communities and neighborhoods safe. We will not compromise the safety of citizens in order to balance the budget. We believe families should always come before felons. Those principles are reflected in the House Republican budget.
Our budget proposal would:
- Fund community supervision without reductions or early release (the House Democrats' proposal would reduce supervision of sex offenders from 36 months to 24 months);
- Include new funding for gang violence prevention programs (no money included in House Democrats' proposal to fight gang violence); and
- Provide $37 million more in public safety funding than the House Democrats' proposal.
Caring for the most vulnerable
Taking care of our most vulnerable citizens, including people with developmental disabilities, mental health patients, senior citizens and children, is not only our responsibility as a civil society, it is the right thing to do. The House Republican budget would:
- Fully fund critical access hospitals (House Democrats' budget would reduce funding by $13 million, putting some in jeopardy of closing);
- Maintain funding for supported employment, supported living, eligibility for personal care services for the developmentally disabled (House Democrats' budget would eliminate state-only employment services);
- Maintain funding for adult day health services (House Democrats' proposal would reduce this by 20 percent); and
- Provide $45 million more in these areas than the House Democrats' proposal.
No tax increases
We believe the budget must be balanced within existing revenues and without tax increases. Remember, the state is expected to bring in $2 billion more than the previous budget cycle. It's a matter of priorities. Our House Republican budget prioritizes spending by identifying the core services of government. We reform state government by eliminating programs that don't work, are inefficient, or are non-essential services. House Democrats do not have a state sales tax increase proposal built into their budget, but they do cut funding to local governments and then give them wider authority to increase taxes. That's really a way of providing for a tax increase, but not taking the responsibility of the political consequences. In this tight economy, people cannot afford tax increases, whether they come from the state or local governments. The money still comes from the same place.
The House Republican budget shows that we can fund the priorities of government — education, public safety and services for the most vulnerable — without devastating cuts and without tax increases. I invite you to compare our operating budget proposal here and the House Democrats' plan here, and then decide which budget you believe would be best for the state of Washington.
In your service,