Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It has been a very active week in the Legislature.
Budget proposals released
On Monday, the majority party in the House released their proposal for balancing the $5.1 billion shortfall for the 2011-13 budget. I have several concerns with this proposal:
- it delays apportionment to schools from the last day of the current budget to the first day of the next budget;
- it releases criminals early from jail;
- it transfers one-time funds to support ongoing programs;
- it depends on hoped-for proceeds from leasing the state's liquor distribution center; and
- it is not sustainable.
I have always believed that budget gimmicks leave the public in the dark, and do not work out financially anyway. This proposal essentially suspends many programs until revenues recover, and then restores everything back to the same levels. It's important to note that revenues for the 2011-13 budget are actually expected to come in $3.86 billion higher than they did for the 2009-11 budget.
In the Ways and Means Committee Wednesday evening, I supported an alternative budget solution sponsored by Rep. Gary Alexander, the House Republican lead on the budget. While not perfect, it did offer a better, truly sustainable option. Some highlights:
- protects more education funding;
- protects more public safety funding;
- faces facts by eliminating large social programs we know we cannot afford;
- uses the priorities of government to determine where the funding should be directed;
- restricts fee increases only to the direct benefit of the payer; and
- does not increase taxes.
We must craft a budget that looks forward and sets us on a better path. I believe strongly we must invest in our students and schools, because they are our future. This week we had students from Eatonville Elementary in Olympia. It's fun to have children at the Capitol, and to teach them about their government.
Closing tax loopholes incentives
Starting Wednesday, we have had hundreds (thousands today) of protestors at the Capitol. They even slept under the dome Wednesday evening. I welcome folks using their First Amendment right to free speech, peaceful assembly and petition of their government. Their main request is for the Legislature to close tax “loopholes.” I think there could be some obsolete incentives, and I know the Legislature has repealed some in the past once they outlasted their use. I am willing to look at these in the future, but the most important thing right now is to reduce the footprint of government in your daily life and help get Washington working again.
Many of these tax incentives create jobs in our state. They encourage small businesses to move or expand in Washington, creating job opportunities. It's also important to remember that each tax incentive had to pass the muster of public hearings, committee passage, full chamber passage in both the House and Senate, as well as the governor's signature.
The main tax incentives these protestors want ended would add up to about $120 million, far short of the $5 billion problem with the budget. The largest tax exemption in this state adds up to $1.7 billion, and that is on your food at the grocery store. Closing this “loophole” would dramatically hurt working families trying to make it through this unstable economy.
I have started to get a few budget ideas from people – please keep sending them!
As we approach the last few weeks of session, I want you to know I will keep fighting for the priorities of our rural working families, our small businesses and to get Washington back to work.
Please don't hesitate to call or e-mail anytime.