Dear Friends and Neighbors,
*** Special Session Update ***
I wanted to send you a quick note to let you know that Gov. Gregoire has finally agreed to call the Legislature into a special session to deal quickly with an escalating projected budget deficit. House and Senate Republican caucuses have been calling for early action since this summer. While I'm certainly frustrated that the governor and the legislative leadership of the majority party waited so long to do so, I am relieved they are starting to finally acknowledge that Washington is in the midst of an unprecedented budget crisis.
The last revenue forecast in November showed both an unexpected increase in certain caseloads and a decrease in incoming state revenues. It was then determined that our state is facing a $1.1 billion shortfall for the remainder of the 2009-2011 biennium which ends June 30, of next year. While the 2011-13 budget shortfall is around $5.7 billion for the next biennium – and will undoubtedly be the focus of the upcoming legislative session in 2011 – the most pressing need is to make corrective actions to come up with $1.1 billion in savings between now and the end of June.
As I write this on Friday afternoon (and boy do things change quickly around this place), the plan is to go into a special session tomorrow (Saturday) and be done with it in one day. There is a tentative agreement between the leaders of the four caucuses and the governor's office to come up with about $700 million in savings. While this won't fix the entire $1.1 billion problem, it is a good start and gets us going in the right direction.
Most of you who have read my e-newsletters before know that my colleagues and I have strongly advocated for a resetting of state government. As families and small businesses have had to prioritize spending and readjust expectations, so must state government. While our message of a smaller, more efficient state government that takes care of the most vulnerable has fallen on deaf ears in the Legislature in the past, it seems that now, our voice is finally starting to be heard.
I will continue to send you updates throughout this next session. And as always, please feel free to contact me with your questions or concerns. I value your input and am humbled once again to serve on your behalf in Olympia.