Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Today was the first day of the 30-day special legislative session called by Gov. Chris Gregoire. Our task over the next month is to deal with a projected $2 billion shortfall in the state budget. During this time, I'll do my best to send you information that I think is helpful in explaining the situation.
For example, I found the chart below very helpful in showing our state's spending history over the last 20 years. As you can see, despite much of what comes from the media and other sources, the budget enacted for 2011-13 is very much in line with state spending growth over the last two decades. The extremely large increases in state spending in the 2005-07 and 2007-09 biennia accounted for much of the state's budget shortfalls the past few years.
In part of her solution to the state budget shortfall, Gov. Gregoire is proposing a “temporary” $500 million sales tax increase. I believe this half-percent increase in the state sales tax should be a last resort rather than one of the first options presented. I believe we can balance this budget within existing revenues – just like families across our state are having to do. I also believe that many of the things she proposes to “buy back” with increased taxes are things that shouldn't be on the chopping block in the first place – levy equalization, public safety, and helping the most vulnerable, including the developmentally disabled. To me, and many of my colleagues in Olympia, these are the very priorities of government. These are things that should be funded first and foremost. Then, if more money is leftover, we fund other state services.
As always, feel free to send me your thoughts and ideas. I look forward to hearing from you over these next few weeks.
While it was nice to see the Christmas Tree, (some in bureaucratic Olympia insist on calling it a “Holiday Tree” – but as one colleague said: “If it's truly a Holiday Tree, why don't they put it up on Memorial Day?”) it also reminded me that I would much rather be at home. Being in Olympia at Christmas just doesn't seem natural.