Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We will soon be entering the final month of the 2013 regular legislative session. Last Wednesday, the state's revenue forecast was released. Now that the Legislature has those numbers, it can begin to finalize an operating budget that will carry the state through the next two years. Less than two weeks ago, House Republicans were the first to release a spending plan which would fund education first before any other state programs. You can read that plan here.
I invite you to read further for details on the revenue forecast, our plans in the state's transportation system to “fix it before you fund it,” and this week's events at the state Capitol.
As always, your comments are welcome. You'll find my contact information at the bottom of this e-mail update. Please do not hit “reply” to this report, as it will not reach me.
Thank you for the honor of allowing me to serve you!
Last week, the Washington State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council released its quarterly revenue forecast for the 2011-13 biennium and the 2013-15 biennium. The General Fund-State net change is an increase of $58.8 million through the remainder of the 2011-13 biennium, which ends in June. However, the council is projecting a $19.1 million decrease in expected revenues for the 2013-15 biennium, primarily due to federal sequestration reductions, reinstatement of the federal payroll tax, and a state economy that remains fragile. The forecast has also been reduced by $48.7 million for the 2015-17 biennium. An improved trend in housing construction and sales is expected to help buffer against further revenue reductions.
What do all these figures mean?
The forecast is much better than predicted, even though incoming revenue remains largely flat. While some lawmakers are still stuck talking about tax increases, this forecast underscores the need for the Legislature to create a budget within EXISTING revenues by prioritizing spending.
While the news media is concentrating on a $1.3 billion budget shortfall, here's a figure they're not telling you: $2 billion. That's the increase of revenue expected over and above the current budget year. In other words, the state will be taking in $2 billion more in the coming budget cycle than the previous one.
So why do we hear about this so-called “shortfall?” Because that would be the reduction of anticipated increases of funding. In other words, an “Olympia cut.”
The bottom line is that there is enough money to pay for essential services and balance the state's operating budget WITHOUT tax increases. The revenue forecast showed us while the economy is showing some signs of recovery, it is still very fragile. Tax increases could wipe out the ability for the economy to recover any time soon.
Fix it BEFORE you fund it!
This week's transportation reform: Suspend GMA in counties with high unemployment
In my previous e-mail update, I talked about the systematic problems within the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), including leaky pontoons, faulty ferries and ramps to nowhere. I also noted that it costs twice as much in Washington to build a highway than other states. Before we ask citizens for more money for transportation, we should get to the bottom of these problems first. In other words, “Fix it BEFORE you fund it!”
House Republicans have released a plan of reforms that we believe should be enacted BEFORE seeking more revenue for transportation. Go here to read our entire plan.
- SUSPEND THE GROWTH MANAGEMENT ACT (GMA) – House Bill 1619 would suspend GMA requirements in counties with persistent unemployment, where regulations often stand in the way of economic development.
The Growth Management Act is the comprehensive land-use planning framework for county and city governments in Washington. Enacted in 1990 and 1991, the GMA establishes numerous requirements for local governments obligated by mandate or choice to fully plan under the GMA, and a reduced number of directives for all other counties and cities.
The “one size fits all” restrictions of the state's GMA creates inefficiencies and unnecessary expense to our state's transportation system. Frequently, these requirements prevent businesses from locating in our communities and forces our neighbors to travel 40 miles or more to their jobs. That results in more pollution, unnecessary wear and tear on our highways, and reduces our quality of life.
Olympia doesn't always know what's best for our communities. We believe local government officials should have greater control over their planning and use policies, rather than leaving oversight to a governor-appointed, non-elected state Growth Management Hearings Board. What people want in Seattle and Olympia in terms of land-use planning doesn't always translate to a workable model in other parts of the state. Unfortunately, in areas of persistent high unemployment, the Growth Management Act has served as a barrier to jobs and growth.
In counties that have unemployment rates exceeding seven percent for three consecutive months, House Bill 1619 would suspend the Growth Management Act requirements for five years, or until the average rate of total seasonally-adjusted unemployment remains less than seven percent for three consecutive months. This measure would help struggling local governments that need relief from the GMA, not only to save them money, but also would allow them focus their attention and limited tax collections on economic development.
This week in Olympia!
Below is the schedule for public hearings in the House committees this week. I encourage you to become involved in your state Legislature. If you'd like to learn more about how to testify in committee, go here. Click on the links below to get information about each bill.
TUESDAY, MARCH 26
Higher Education Committee – House Hearing Room A – 9 a.m.
- Western Governors University – Washington – Participating in State Need Grant – Public Hearing on Senate Bill 5195
Government Operations and Elections Committee – House Hearing Room E – 9 a.m.
- Protecting Ethical Actions of Employees – Public Hearing on Senate Bill 5577
Labor and Workforce Development Committee – House Hearing Room D – 10 a.m.
- Social Networking Accounts and Profiles – Public Hearing Senate Bill 5211
Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee – House Hearing Room B – 10 a.m.
- Process for Acquisition of Habitat and Recreation Lands – Public Hearing on Senate Bill 5054
Government Accountability and Oversight Committee – House Hearing Room C – 1:30 p.m.
- Spirits Sampling – Public Hearing on Senate Bill 5396
- Grocery Store Beer and Wine Tasting – Public Hearing on Senate Bill 5517
- Farmers Market Beer and Wine Sampling – Public Hearing on Senate Bill 5674
Transportation Committee – House Hearing Room B – 3:30 p.m.
- Expanding Use of Farm Vehicles on Highways – Public Hearing on Senate Bill 5616
- Rules for Electric Vehicle Charging Stations – Public Hearing on Senate Bill 5849
Early Learning and Human Services Committee – House Hearing Room C – 1:30 p.m.
- Prohibiting Use of EBT Cards/Welfare Benefits for Marijuana and Liquor – Public Hearing on Senate Bill 5279
- Extended Foster Care – Public Hearing on Senate Bill 5405
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 27
Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee – House Hearing Room B – 8 a.m.
- Companion Animal Safety, Population Control and Spay/Neuter Assistance Program – Public Hearing on Senate Bill 5202
Environment Committee – House Hearing Room C – 1:30 p.m.
- Mercury-Containing Lights – Public Hearing on Senate Bill 5658
Business and Financial Services Committee – House Hearing Room B – 1:30 p.m.
- Authorizing Small Consumer Installment Loans – Public Hearing on Senate Bill 5312
Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government Committee – House Hearing Room D – 3:30 p.m.
- Briefing on Washington Military Department – Work Session
THURSDAY, MARCH 28
Early Learning and Human Services Committee – House Hearing Room C – 8 a.m.
- Adolescent Brain Development – Work Session
Education Committee – House Hearing Room A – 8 a.m.
- Teacher Principal Evaluation Project – Work Session
Public Safety Committee – House Hearing Room D – 10 a.m.
- Federal Immigration Policy and Secure Communities – Work Session
- National Defense Authorization Act, Indefinite Detention – Work Session
Government Operations and Elections Committee – House Hearing Room E – 10 a.m.
- Creating a Formal Review Process for Rules – Public Hearing on Senate Bill 5679
Technology and Economic Development Committee – House Hearing Room C – 1:30 p.m.
- Technology Transfers, Commercialization, and Washington's Entrepreneurial Climate – Work Session
Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee – House Hearing Room B – 1:30 p.m.
- Unlawful Trade in Shark Fins – Public Hearing on Senate Bill 5081
FRIDAY, MARCH 29
Finance Committee – House Hearing Room A – 8 a.m.
- Addressing the Bracken Decision under Washington's Estate Tax – Public Hearing on House Bill 1920
Education Committee – House Hearing Room A – 1:30 p.m.
- Job Corps/Peace Corps/AmeriCorps K-12 Access – Public Hearing on Senate Bill 5114
- Requiring “Mutual Consent” for Teacher Placement – Public Hearing on Senate Bill 5242
Events at the State Capitol
We have many groups that visit the state Capitol during the legislative session and participate in events. Here's a look at public events planned this week.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 27
Press Conference on State Budget Online Transparency
10 a.m. – 10:45 a.m.
Sponsored by: WashPIRG
Legislative Building – North Steps
Estimated attendance: 10
Mental Health Care
12 p.m. – 1 p.m.
Sponsored by: SEIU 1199NW
Legislative Building – North Steps
Estimated attendance: 60
FRIDAY, MARCH 29
Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans
10:30 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Sponsored by: Yakama Warriors Association
Vietnam Veterans Memorial – Capitol campus
Estimated attendance: 100
In your service,