Committee holds work session on Republican budget bills focused on accountability, integrity and sustainability

Editorial in The Olympian: ‘Alexander’s proposal makes sense – and therefore will likely be rejected out-of-hand by Democrat budget writers.’


The House Ways and Means Committee held a work session on eight Republican proposals aimed at restoring accountability, integrity and sustainability to the legislative budgeting process.

“If we don’t get the process right from the beginning; if we keep going about business as usual, we’re going to temporarily patch this problem and then find ourselves right back in the same predicament down the road,” said Rep. Gary Alexander, the ranking Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee.

“We keep talking about making substantive changes to the budgeting process, but we just keep teeing it up over and over again,” Alexander, R-Olympia, said.  “At some point, I’d like the opportunity to swing away and really change the nature of how things get done around here.”

Alexander said the broad coalition of House Republican sponsors is indicative of the good ideas being generated from his colleagues.

“This isn’t just me coming up with ideas,” Alexander said.  “We’ve got a host of members who have some great ideas for true reform.  I’m happy the majority party agreed to hold a work session on our ideas, but a work session is far from actually holding a public hearing where we can hear citizens’ support for our proposals.

“In the end, I suppose a recent observation in an editorial by The Olympian will continue to ring true when it said: ‘Alexander’s proposal makes sense – and therefore will likely be rejected out-of-hand by Democratic budget writers,'” Alexander said.

House Republican budget proposals discussed during today’s work session included:

House Bill 1458, sponsored by Rep. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor, would require a fiscal note to be established before final passage of any bill before the Washington State Legislature.

House Bill 1654, sponsored by Alexander, would establish a period of public and legislative review for the state’s major appropriations bills.  Dubbed “The Budget Sunshine Act,” it would require a five-day waiting period before either legislative body could vote on the operating, capital or transportation budgets.

During the work session, Alexander said oftentimes he’s been forced to vote on a budget bill that was still literally “warm” from being recently copied.

“I’ve voted on a budget bill, and then later when I’ve actually had a chance to read it, found details that were not in any previous version of the bill,” Alexander said.  “This place moves at a very fast pace, but to sacrifice the integrity of my vote, and to sacrifice the integrity of the contents of the budget for the sake of expediency, is just plain wrong.  It’s not what the citizens of this state expect from their elected officials.”

House Bill 1655, also sponsored by Alexander, would require the Legislature to adopt a balanced budget.

While the governor is statutorily obligated to propose a balanced budget, there is currently no requirement for the Legislature to adopt one.  This could lead to the practice of borrowing or issuing bonds in order to pay for daily, ongoing expenses.

House Bill 1657, sponsored by Rep. Glenn Anderson, R-Fall City, would establish that the paramount duty and first priority of the Legislature is to fund education.  The bill would require a separate education budget be enacted before any other general spending plan could be adopted.

House Bill 1902, sponsored by Rep. Bruce Dammeier, R-Puyallup, would simplify the budget language for the public by eliminating all of the dedicated accounts contained in the near general fund.  These accounts, such as the health services account, the water quality account, and the education trust legacy account would simply be rolled into the general fund.

House Bill 2228, also sponsored by Bailey, would prohibit the governor or the Legislature from proposing an operating budget deemed unsustainable in the ensuing biennium, or the following biennium after that one.

“By now, we’ve all heard, and we all remember, the governor’s infamous quote when she signed last year’s supplemental budget,” Alexander said.  “She signed a budget that she said she knew was unsustainable.  That makes no sense to me and has added to the sizable budget deficit we’re facing now.  If this legislation was in place last year, she would not have been able to sign a budget that she very well knew spent too much.”

House Joint Resolution 4207, sponsored by Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, would establish a state spending limit for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2010.  The fiscal limit mirrors the original language found in the voter-approved Initiative 601 by limiting expenditures to an increase in the state’s population and inflation growth over the previous three years.

“We know the voters want this,” Alexander said.  “They approved the concept with I-601 and I continue to get comments today from constituents who think the state still has a meaningful spending limit.  The fact that we don’t leaves them dumbfounded.  All they know is they voted for one, and now one doesn’t exist.  It’s eroding the confidence and the trust our citizens have in us as elected officials.

House Joint Resolution 4209, also sponsored by Bailey, would require exceptional state revenue to be deposited into the state’s “rainy day fund” during good economic times.

“It’s quite obvious that the Legislature overspent during the good times we had over the past few years,” Alexander said.  “If the Legislature was required to save some of that money instead of going on the free-for-all spending spree that it did, a lot of heartache and broken promises could have been avoided.”

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For more information, contact: Brendon Wold, Senior Information Officer: (360) 786-7698


Washington State House Republican Communications