Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The focus of the Legislature now turns to adopting three budgets in the final weeks of the 2013 regular legislative session: general operating, transportation, and capital budgets.
The Senate proposed a truly bipartisan operating budget. Equally important, the Senate budget does not raise taxes in a fragile economy and following the deepest recession in decades, but it does increases spending for K-12 education and maintains existing support for our most vulnerable. The governor’s spending outline and House Democrats’ budgets each propose to raise taxes by more than $1.2 billion on small businesses and others.
The state operating budget proposals
Tax collections are expected to increase nearly 7 percent, or $2 billion, over the 2013-15 budget cycle. Total tax collections will be $33.5 billion, up from the $31.5 billion in the current 2011-13 budget that ends June 30. So, without a tax increase, the state government will grow by more than two times the inflation rate at a time most wages aren’t growing at all.
The governor, Senate and House have each put forward their spending plans.
The governor’s proposed spending outline: Gov. Jay Inslee has proposed a $34.4 billion spending outline. It relies on roughly $1.2 billion in new and increased taxes. You can read more about it here.
Senate budget proposal: The Senate Majority Coalition Caucus, a bipartisan group of legislators, passed a $33.3 billion budget Friday, April 5, with a vote of 30-18. I was pleased to see good ideas from both parties incorporated into the plan, while spending within the projected $33.5 billion in tax collections. You can read more about it here.
House Democratic budget: The House Democratic Caucus released and passed its budget proposal, which spends $34.5 billion and adds $1.22 billion in new and increased taxes. You can read more about it here.
Whatever budget agreement we arrive at, I firmly believe we must fund education first and within projected tax collections. My fear is that raising taxes, like those proposed in the House Democratic and governor’s budgets, will only stall what is already a sluggish recovery and hurt middle- and low-income Washingtonians.
Improving government accountability and transparency
As we debate the transportation budget, I have been advocating for measures that reform the system in ways that add more accountability to project spending and the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT).
My legislation, House Bill 1986, would require WSDOT to report engineering errors costing taxpayers more than $500,000. The department would also be required to explain what went wrong to the Legislature and create a plan to correct the errors and ensure similar mistakes do not happen on future projects.
Last week, WSDOT disclosed that it had fired one employee and suspended another after admitting its flawed design of the 520 Bridge pontoons will cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars. My bill, if were in effect, would have required WSDOT to disclose much more: how the error happened and what it planned to do to correct the problem and insure the error is not repeated. We can’t afford for this to happen again. We need this reform now to rebuild trust with taxpayers. You can read more about the transportation reform measures that so far have been stalled in the House here.
Additionally, pension reforms are needed. As we address the growing costs associated with government programs, policies and pensions, the key for the Legislature is to address serious abuses in the system that are costing taxpayers millions locally and likely billions statewide. One example of abuse in the system with our money was outlined in The News Tribune April 6. You can read the article here. In a nutshell, three firefighters in Lakewood Fire District 2 received substantial pay increases right before retirement. The increases boosted their annual pension payments $1,000 per month – on the taxpayer dime.
We cannot have a system in which “gaming” is made possible; we can’t afford it and it destroys taxpayer’s trust in government.
Watch my video update where I discuss the bipartisan Senate budget plan
28th Legislative District
424 John L. O’Brien Building – P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7890 or Toll-free: (800) 562-6000