Friends and Neighbors,
We're two-thirds of the way through the 2012 legislative session with still no budget from the majority party showing their plans 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.
I try to remind legislators, the media and the public that we can't get lost in the numbers. This session has to be about more than just the budget – we have to implement policies that will help the private sector create jobs. I also made several comments during the revenue forecast meeting and later on the radio with Ken Schram and others about how we need to focus on job creation. If you want to watch the council meeting, click on the picture on the right. You can listen to my interview with KOMO's Ken Schram, or my interview with KTTH's David Boze, by clicking here or read the statement I made to the press on the new revenue forecast by clicking here.
House Republican Budget
House Republicans introduced the first budget of the 2012 legislative session last week. 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 increasing tax rates. 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 cosponsored 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.
18th District Town Halls
Thank you for joining us this past weekend at our 18th District Town Halls. It was great to see so many of you there.
As always, please feel to contact my office with any questions or concerns you have on legislation or other state government issues. It is an honor to serve you in Olympia.