Dear Friends and Neighbors,
With about two weeks left in the 2012 session, we've finally seen the first budget from the majority party in Olympia. The House Democrats released their budget proposal this week, and to say that I'm disappointed would be a gross understatement. Here's why:
House Democrat Budget
Their budget continues to kick the can down the road. But this time, it's TWO roads. The first road is the fact that they use an accounting gimmick to push over $400 million into the next biennium in education funding. This doesn't “solve” the problem, it just pushes it out into the next biennium so that before budget writers even sit down to write next year's budget, we'll already be $400 million in the hole – and that doesn't include the governor's own six-year outlook that estimates we'll have another budget shortfall of around $900 million next biennium! I think folks in Washington state – and certainly the folks in the 9th District – want us to fix our budget problems and get off the budget rollercoaster by implementing a responsible, realistic budget that recognizes the economic realities being felt by hardworking taxpayers around the state.
The “second road” includes an ingenious scheme to get around the two-thirds legislative vote to raise taxes. They severely cut local government funding – including local public health and criminal justice funds – but then give local governments the authority to RAISE YOUR TAXES. The local governments can do this with a simple majority vote instead of the two-thirds requirement at the state level. They've found the ultimate “tax loophole” and are now quick to exploit it.
I'm also concerned that they're playing politics with funding for Critical Access Hospitals, which play a vital role in many of our rural communities. Their proposal specifically cuts funding for Critical Access Hospitals in all legislative districts…EXCEPT the districts being represented by Democrats! That's right, if your hospital is in a district represented by a Republican – it's funding will be cut! That is blatantly wrong and smacks in the face of their “One Washington” mantra.
Their budget also cuts funding for those in the developmentally disabled community looking for jobs so they can be self-sufficient; makes cuts to community supervision of convicted criminals; and, makes cuts to the reimbursement rates for nursing homes. And yet, through all this, the House Republican budget makes more long-term spending reductions and leaves more money in reserves, setting us up for a much better budget situation in the years to come. I could go on and on. And lest you think I'm being too partisan in my condemnation of their plan, take a quick look at the headlines and articles of these papers – read them for yourself so you can decide:
- Democrats' budget proposal would shift costs to cities, counties (The Tacoma News Tribune)
- Accounting gimmick is big part of state House budget moves (The Seattle Times)
- Budget from House Dems relies on delayed payments (Associated Press/Yakima Herald-Republic)
- Washington's House Democrats' budget irresponsibly pushes problems ahead (Editorial, Seattle Times)
- Still waiting for a reality-based budget from Olympia (Editorial, The Tacoma News Tribune)
- Kick less, reform more (Editorial, The Vancouver Columbian)
As you can see, there is a lot of room for improvement in the budget that's ultimately going to come out of Olympia. We can either prioritize our spending – like House Republicans did with education, public safety, and protecting the most vulnerable – or we can continue with accounting gimmicks, kicking the can down the road, and the same failed leadership that helped get us here in the first place. I know this sounds a little more harsh than I usually am – and for that, I apologize. But to be so very near the end of session after a special session last December and this is what the other side trots out as a responsible budget? It's unacceptable and very frustrating.
I will be working as hard as I can over the last weeks of session to try to make my colleagues understand that we need a responsible, sustainable and accountable budget. We don't need a budget that will lead to a future of debt, doubt and decline.
Also, former Speaker of the House and current Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich stopped by Olympia today. (see photo at right) He had some encouraging words to share and talked about his last visit to Washington state. It was a nice time.
As always, feel free to contact my office with your questions, concerns or comments. Thank you for the honor of serving you in Olympia.