Friends and Neighbors,
Last week, the majority party in the House released their 2011-13 operating budget proposal, including their solutions to our approximately $5.1 billion budget shortfall.
As you read the papers and watch or listen to the newscasts over the next few weeks while the Legislature debates the budget in earnest, it's important to remember how we got to the point where we're facing such an immense deficit. Not to point fingers and play political games, but to adhere to that old but wise adage: “Those who don't learn from history are condemned to repeat it.”
This budget is partially the result of excessive government spending when times were good – along with the reliance upon federal dollars and other one-time budget transfers when the economy started to falter. Instead of quickly making changes two years ago – changes that would have been difficult, but would have led to budget stability today – budget writers kicked the can down the road, choosing instead to pin their hopes on an improving economy.
Unfortunately, the economy didn't improve – as many unemployed workers in Southwest Washington can attest to – and here we are today with a substantial budget shortfall.
As one of the ranking Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee, I've been working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to find sustainable budget solutions that will set us on a new path and Get Washington Working Again.
However, while I agree with many of the necessary reductions in spending found in the House Democrat budget, a significant difference in priorities and principles has led House Republicans to offer a different plan.
Our plan is more sustainable, more transparent and prioritizes spending by focusing precious resources on three key areas:
- Education – Our plan prioritizes education as the constitutional mandate that it is. We leave more money in K-12 education and we don't eliminate $6 million for the school food program;
- Public Safety – Our plan prioritizes public safety and protects our communities. Their plan proposes to let criminals out of jail early to save money.
- Protecting the most vulnerable – Our plan protects the most vulnerable citizens. Their plan reduces or eliminates developmentally disabled employment programs. Their plan cuts Medicaid funding – our plan does not. Their plan implements severe cuts to nursing homes, harming our senior citizens. Our plan does not. We believe these folks are truly the most in need of government help and assistance.
In addition to these differences, our plan also makes more reforms and is more sustainable moving forward. Rather than keep certain programs on life support by barely funding them, we choose to eliminate expensive or unnecessary programs and agencies in order to protect high-priority services.
For more information on our state budget plan, click here.
If you'd like to see my remarks on the House floor when I voted against the House budget, click here and scroll the timer on the left to 1:15:57
Tax loophole rhetoric is just that – RHETORIC
I thought you might like to see a few photos from some of the thousands of protesters who came to the state Capitol last week to protest cuts in the budget. Many of them rely on your hard-earned tax dollars. They want higher taxes, but you won't hear them say that directly. Instead, you'll hear them say “cut tax loopholes.”
The term “loopholes” makes many people think there's a mistake in the system – like something was accidental or overlooked that allows for ways to buck the system. That's really not the case at all.
In Washington state, we don't have tax loopholes. We have tax INCENTIVES. The distinction between the two is important to understand because the tax incentives we have in Washington are no accident. They were enacted deliberately for very specific purposes: to create and protect jobs.
For example, in the first 10 years after the Legislature adopted a tax incentive that exempted sales tax on manufacturing and equipment, it created 285,000 new jobs. Those new jobs generated billions of dollars in new tax revenue.
Thousands of jobs with high wages and benefits have been created and many jobs have been saved as a result of these incentives.
What are some of the proposals to close these so-called “tax loopholes?” Supporters want to eliminate the sales tax exemption on food, increase taxes on medical devices and insulin, extend taxes to church daycare centers, and tax employers on creating jobs in rural counties. These proposals would hurt Washington families at a time when they are struggling most.
If tax incentives are eliminated, jobs will be eliminated. It's that simple. With more than 330,000 people in Washington unemployed, we don't need to put more people out of work. Instead, I believe we need to get Washington working again.
I wrote an op-ed on this issue for Th
e Columbian. It appeared one week later in the Daily News. If you'd like to read the article, click here.
This week, I hosted a legislative page from the 18th District. Natalie Schiermeister is from Battle Ground. She is a 10th grade student at River Homelink. If you or someone you know would like more information on how to become a legislative page for next year, click here.
Thank you, Natalie, for your work this week. It was a pleasure hosting you. You represented your family and your community well, and I know you'll take this experience with you in your future education and career endeavors.
Now that the Senate has also released its budget proposal, the budget negotiations can begin in earnest. We still have about 10 days left in the 105-day regular session. But because there are significant differences between the two proposals, there is already talk of the session going into overtime. This would be a mistake. Budget writers are not operating in a vacuum. They've known the generalities of the major issues for some time. I've said it before and I'll say it again: if the state doesn't have money for some of the programs that are being cut due to the budget shortfall, we certainly don't have the money to pay legislators to stay in Olympia longer. The estimated $20,000 per day cost of a special session would be a failure in leadership and a slap in the face to Washington taxpayers.
I'll continue to keep you updated on the budget proposals and other matters of interest over the next few weeks. Hopefully, budget writers can agree on a sustainable and transparent budget so we can all go home on time.