Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We're over half-way through the 2012 legislative session with still no budget from the majority party on their spending plan and potential tax increase package to solve our state's budget shortfall. However, we did receive some favorable news this week in the updated revenue forecast. The end result is that less people are using state services and we're going to see a little bit more in revenue. Our budget shortfall is expected to be around $1.1 billion now. Hopefully, this news will help us keep tax increases from being part of the overall budget solution.
House Republican Budget
House Republicans introduced the first budget of the 2012 legislative session today. During the special session in December, and earlier this session, members of my caucus met for literally hours and hours hammering out our priorities and principles – and specifically defining them. Our budget approach was to create an “all-priorities” budget that funds education first, protects public safety, and protects the most vulnerable – all without an increase in the sales tax rate. I'm proud of the leadership shown by my colleagues and the work we've been able to accomplish. Being in the minority and still putting out a complete budget proposal is no small feat. But in the end, we felt we needed to provide the public with something to contrast what we think the majority party will craft. If you want more information on our budget proposal, click here.
Solving the budget problem for this year is not enough. We need several budget reforms to change the process itself to help create long-term sustainability. One of those bills is House Bill 2607 which passed the House this week. I support this legislation that would help bring stability and accountability to the state's budgeting process. It requires the Office of Financial Management (OFM) to publish a six-year budget outlook when the governor releases his or her preliminary budget proposal and related documents before each legislative session begins. The outlook must use the most recent revenue and caseload forecasts and will be updated by OFM to reflect both legislative actions and revenue forecast changes.
The six-year outlook is something that OFM had done regularly in the past, but in recent years has not included it in the governor's budget release. With this bill, the six-year outlook would be mandatory, giving lawmakers and citizens a better picture of the state's long-term fiscal health and the impact proposed policies have on future budgets.
The spending decisions we make in the Legislature today aren't just felt for one or two years; they impact us down the road for years to come. Having a clear picture of what our state's fiscal health looks like six years from now because of the decisions we make today will help hold legislators more accountable, keep the public more informed and, hopefully, lead to greater budget stability in the future.
A visit from Rick Santorum
Former Pennsylvania Senator and current Presidential candidate Rick Santorum visited Olympia this week. He came into our caucus room for a few minutes and spoke with House Republican members. He quoted a study recently done by the Brookings Institution on poverty. The study says that if you do these three things – work, graduate from high school, and wait until you're married to have kids – you have only a 2% chance of ending up impoverished. To me, it doesn't matter what party you belong to or what your person philosophy is – these three things make sense. And, in my mind, government – at all levels – has a huge vested interest in encouraging citizen success in these three areas.
Also, the 9th District legislators, along with our staff, got together this week to celebrate Sen. Mark Schoesler's birthday in his office. For those of you who haven't met my very capable Legislative Assistant, Pam Kentner, she's the one to my far right. Rep. Susan Fagan's Legislative Assistant, Cathy Colley, is to my immediate left and Krista Winters, who works for Sen. Schoesler is at my far left. A good group of folks working hard for the citizens in the 9th District!
Thanks for reading my e-newsletter. It is a pleasure to serve you in Olympia.