Browsed by
Tag: Washington state budget

WA Senate coalition unveils $33.3b no-tax budget ?>

WA Senate coalition unveils $33.3b no-tax budget


The Washington Senate’s GOP-led majority coalition, backed by a handful of Democrats, rolled out a $33.3 billion, two-year state budget proposal Wednesday that holds the line on taxes, plows $1 billion in new money into education, cuts college tuition, and expands Medicaid coverage.

The plan would also restore the 3 percent pay cut imposed on state workers in the last biennium.

The proposal is the first legislative draft of the session, following on the heels of new Gov. Jay Inslee’s budget blueprint last week and then-Gov. Chris Gregoire’s lame-duck budget submitted last December.  Inslee called the Senate version “deeply flawed” and House Appropriations Chairman Ross Hunter called it unsustainable and in some aspects “downright cruel.”

Secretary of State Kim Wyman said the budget plan acknowledges the need for a major infusion of education funding and for belt-tightening and efficiencies.  She said she is already looking for Lean management efficiencies in her office, and has proposed cost-savings legislation that will save taxpayers $1.6 million. Those bills are currently moving through both houses and as part of the budget process.

Wyman did take issue with the budget’s funding for the State Library.  The plan is to shift the Library, including the Washington Talking Book & Braille Library, from the main General Fund to the dedicated savings account lawmakers previously approved for construction of the Washington State Heritage Center.  Wyman said the Library still appears to be underfunded by roughly $1 million.  She also noted that the Office of Secretary of State is directed to cut $632,000 further from the Library’s costs and to absorb about $450,000 in efficiency cuts — despite having already identified and advocated for $1.6 million in cost-savings.

Wyman said she looks forward to working with legislators in both chambers and the governor to secure funding for the Library, which she called “a core service of government, assisting millions of readers and hundreds of our excellent local libraries.”  The Library provides indispensable service to blind and reading-impaired people, operates institutional libraries, helps local libraries secure federal grants and group purchasing of services, and is set to partner with Microsoft on a free IT Academy via the libraries of Washington, she added. The Microsoft IT Academy is in the Senate budget, she noted.

Senate budget Chair Andy Hill, R-Redmond, said the overall budget protects core services and pumps a heavy new investment in 3-23 education (early childhood education through K-12 and higher education), without relying on additional taxation or wholesale closure of tax preferences.  The economy recovery is still fragile and lawmakers should be very cautious about raising taxes, he said.

The governor’s plan generates about $1.3 billion in new revenue by closing tax (more…)

Inslee budget: $1.4b in new revenue, mostly for K-12 ?>

Inslee budget: $1.4b in new revenue, mostly for K-12

dollar-sign1-300x300The Battle of the Budgets has begun.

Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat in the third month of his tenure, unveiled his $34.4 billion budget blueprint in a lengthy televised news conference at the Capitol on Thursday.

Headline: He would generate about $1.4 billion in new revenue by extending expiring taxes and by closing or reducing a variety of tax exemptions.  The new money would mostly go for education, a $1.2 billion down-payment on the state addressing a state Supreme Court mandate for full state-level funding of basic education.

The plan will collide with the no-new-taxes, GOP-dominated Senate coalition, which releases a budget soon. Inslee said he’s optimistic that a good compromise will happen. “I believe we can do hard things,” he said.

The governor’s calculation:

“To govern is to choose …. I choose education over tax breaks. … I’m betting on the future here.”

Secretary of State Kim Wyman complimented the governor for restoring support for the Washington State Library, erasing a $2.6 million deficit in the budget plan submitted by Gov. Chris Gregoire before she left office in January.

The new proposal, like Gregoire’s, would shift the Library out of the main General Fund, into the Heritage Center account, but Inslee doesn’t presume a Library cut of over $600,000 and doesn’t presume passage of a $2 million fee increase that Gregoire had proposed but that looks DOA in the Legislature.

In short, Inslee fully funds the Library, which Wyman called “great news after a decade of severe budget cuts.” The Library serves not only the Legislature and Hill staffers, but also patrons across the state and local libraries across Washington, she said.  The Library also provides crucial services to blind and reading-impaired people, to inmates and to mental hospitals.

Inslee also would:

  • Restore the 3 percent salary cuts for public employees, starting in the new budget, which takes effect in July.
  • Expand state participation in the Medicaid program, saving the state treasury in the near-term. (more…)
Gregoire unveils $34b budget & tax plan ?>

Gregoire unveils $34b budget & tax plan

20120731b_blogGov. Chris Gregoire, in one of her last major acts as governor, has unveiled a $34 billion, two-year budget for state government, along with a tax package devoted largely to upgrading the K-12 budget.

The Democratic governor, leaving office in January after serving eight years, laid out spending priorities for every sector of state government, including schools and colleges, parks, social and health services, prisons, the courts and Legislature, Puget Sound cleanup, and the departments of government.  She also released transportation and construction budgets.

Easily the most controversial aspect of her budget rollout was her prescription of a billion-dollar revenue package, including a wholesale fuel tax and extension of a business tax on selected professional services, a hospital tax and a junk food tax. Reaction from Republican budgetwriters was mostly of the “dead on arrival” variety.

Democratic Gov.-elect Jay Inslee‘s office put out a noncommittal statement. He campaigned against new taxes this year.

The Gregoire budget would continue to squeeze some programs, including the State Library and the Heritage Center account, but would beef up other areas, including employee salaries, Puget Sound cleanup, parks and, most significantly, education. The Legislature and future governors are on notice from the state Supreme Court that the state has not been meeting the state Constitution’s requirement of ample funding of schools.

While it is a lame duck’s budget, it is nonetheless influential, setting the basic parameters of the budget-and-tax deliberations that await when lawmakers convene Jan. 14. Inslee is inaugurated on Jan. 16, and is not expected to build a ground-up budget proposal of his own. If history is a guide, he will present an amended version of Gregoire’s budget, and will have to deal with whether to include new revenue, such as a ballot referendum for education and/or for transportation.

Both houses of the Legislature will offer their own drafts. The House has a Democratic majority. The Senate has a slim Democratic majority of elected senators, but two of their fiscal conservatives, Rodney Tom and Tim Sheldon, have said they will cross the aisle to form a coalition with the 23 Republicans, seizing control of the upper chamber. Tom would be the new majority leader and Sheldon the president pro tempore.  Democrats on Monday rejected a call for a certain amount of power-sharing and counter-proposed a straight sharing of all leadership and committee posts.

State budget deal: cuts and more cuts ?>

State budget deal: cuts and more cuts

As Washington struggles to emerge from the deepest recession in 80 years, lawmakers have reached an 11th-hour budget deal for the next two years, cutting expenses in virtually every sector of state government.

The $32.2 billion plan, hammered out behind closed doors by negotiators from all four caucuses, relies on nearly $4.6 billion in spending cuts, including $1.2 billion saved by not funding two voter-approved education initiatives.  Other monster cuts are higher education, $535 million, offset by an expected $376 million in much higher tuition; $344 million in future pension benefits for PERS1 retirees; $215 million for smaller K-4 class size; $179 million by presuming a 1.9 percent pay cut for teachers; $177 million from a 3 percent pay cut for most state workers; $150 million from hospital rates; $129 million from tighter eligibility for Basic Health Plan; $116 million by recasting the Disability Lifeline program; and so on.

Legislative leaders and budget negotiators rolled out the new plan at a joint news conference, praising the unusual bipartisan approach to this budget.  Gov. Chris Gregoire, a Democrat, quickly endorsed their work.

Lawmakers are racing a midnight Wednesday adjournment deadline, and several potential hangups remained, including the construction budget and a constitutional amendment to roll back the percentage of the state General Fund that can be used for construction bond debt.

The Office of Secretary of State, meanwhile, saw its Heritage Center fund swept away, shifted to  history museums, arts and preservation organizations. The Heritage Center was authorized by the Legislature as a central home for the State Archives, State Library, and education and history exhibits on the Capitol Campus. The $12 million savings account, primarily generated by previously authorized fees on filing of documents, had been set aside to await a final legislative decision on site, design and bond authorization.

The budget also ended, at least for the next two years, the state’s Productivity Board, which solicits money-saving efficiency plans from state employees.  The program has saved nearly $60 million since its inception. (more…)

Red ink: House offers $32 billion cut-laden budget ?>

Red ink: House offers $32 billion cut-laden budget

Majority House Democrats have unveiled a $32.4 billion state budget that incorporates $3.2 billion in assorted cuts, a 3 percent salary reduction and higher medical contributions for public employees, pension reforms, and more.

The no-new-taxes budget for the next two years was the first draft to surface in the Legislature since a new revenue forecast knocked another $800 million hole in the budget last month, bringing the total gap to over $5 billion.  Tax collections have lagged as the state and national recovery struggles to take hold.

House budget Chairman Ross Hunter and other House Democratic leaders briefed reporters on the new plan, which was scheduled for a public hearing later in the day and action by the Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday.  The full House may vote by week’s end, and soon the Senate is expected to come up with its counterproposal.  In the House, minority Republicans are producing an alternative budget; in the Senate, Republicans are at the table.

The House plan freezes voter-approved initiatives for teacher pay and class-size reduction, cuts $482 million from higher education, cuts public employee pay by $177 million, eliminates K-4 class-size appropriations to save $216 million, trims the Basic Health Plan by $108 million and the Disability Lifeline program by $100 million, and saves $362 million from automatic pension COLAs for some older retirees.

The budget proposal would cut the Office of Secretary of State by about $15 million, including cuts of 22 percent at the State Library and the Legacy Project, and saving $10 million by suspending the 2012 presidential primary.  Secretary of State Sam Reed and Gov. Chris Gregoire jointly requested the primary cut, given the dire straits of the budget.

Reed will resist the deep Library and Legacy Project cuts.   The budget does not contemplate removing the Library and Legacy Project from the Office of Secretary of State, as a separate bill had proposed.

But the budget does sweep up the funds that the Legislature previously authorized for construction of a new Heritage Center for the Capitol Campus, to house the Library and State Archives and to provide an education and visitor center and historical exhibits.

House Democrats also proposed a state construction budget that uses $1.6 billion in new bonds.  A separate transportation budget was approved earlier and awaits action in the Senate.

Gregoire signs hard-times budget ?>

Gregoire signs hard-times budget

budget1Governor Gregoire has signed a new budget for Washington state, but warns that we aren’t out of the woods yet.

The Democratic governor signed the $31 billion spending roadmap Tuesday. Combined with a package of tax increases, the major budget revisions address a $2.8 billion gap that developed as the economy deteriorated after the 2009 legislative session.  A variety of taxes, including an additional $1-a-pack on smokes, taxes on bottled water and candy, and higher business taxes on some services, are taking effect quickly, although some rollback initiatives have been filed.

Lawmakers also approved a state employee furlough bill, and hundreds of employees will be laid off and out-of-state travel largely eliminated.  Voter-approved education initiatives and (more…)

Gregoire: $750 million gap remains after cuts ?>

Gregoire: $750 million gap remains after cuts

Gregoire 2010 State of StateGovernor Gregoire, in her annual State of the State Address to a joint session of the Legislature, says the “incredibly challenging” task of closing a multibillion-dollar budget gap can’t be done without finding $750 million in new revenue once budget cuts are made.

That could come from new federal matching money or new state taxes, or both, she said.

Gregoire said she has identified $1 billion in spending cuts, but that she personally isn’t willing to go any deeper. The governor, cheered by her fellow Democrats, gave a ringing defense of spending for preschool, K-12 and college financial aid, and health care.  She said the state must not “write off a generation of kids.”  She called for “a responsible and balanced approach” to the budget crisis.

“Now is the time to be decisive and it is the time for compassion,” Gregoire said in her 40-minute address.

Gregoire called for tax breaks for new job creation by small businesses, greater emphasis on “green” jobs, permit streamlining and other steps aimed at generating up to 40,000 new jobs.

“Jobs are the way out of this recession,” she said.

The governor gave more specifics at an appearance later in the day before the Senate budget panel.  She said the state should know by the State of the Union Address in a few weeks how much help the federal government can provide. She said it could be $1 billion, including money for Medicaid, education and the Basic Health Program. (more…)