Dear Friends and Neighbors,
In the last couple of weeks, I visited with small business owners in Ashford, Graham, Eatonville, McKenna, Rainier, Spanaway and Yelm. I listened as they told me their stories of making tough decisions, like laying off employees, just to keep their doors open. What I heard from them was gritty determination to do what they can to survive and pass on a better opportunity for their kids. When I asked about state government's involvement, they said they don't want handouts, just the ability to make necessary changes to their business so they can survive. Over and over I heard that every level of government tells them 'no.'
One of the most inspiring business owners has a small family-run restaurant that has had to cut its staff from 14 down to three. They are completely determined to hang on and ride out this rough economic tide. Every family member pitches in to keep things together. While taxpayers (individuals, families and employers) are making so many difficult choices just to get by – cutting their overhead and even their labor costs so drastically – shouldn't your state government be just as careful with your resources?
We are projected to have about 7,000 more state employees by 2013 than we had in 2000. Furthermore, during the biggest budget crisis in state history, we are reducing state personnel levels by about 825 employees, or just 0.8 percent, from 2011 to 2013.
This isn't about diminishing the work of state employees who are delivering our services, it's about proper management of your resources.
From 2000-2009, the average annual state employee salary grew slightly faster than statewide average annual salary. However, from 2008-2009, the average Washington citizen's salary declined, while state employee salaries continued to grow.
The reason the average state employee salary has increased is not because they are earning more. It's because where positions have been eliminated, it has been with the workers in the lower ranks – the ones working directly with citizens to provide the services. I would never diminish state employees and the services they provide. We're all in this together – whether we are public or private employees. At the same time, I believe it's the job of state leaders to be responsible with the public's assets and taxpayers dollars. The state hasn't cut management and overhead enough; worthy programs that benefit average citizens are suffering the most.
Next week, Washington's Economic Revenue Forecast will be updated. We expect that state revenues will be much lower than what was forecast in June and that we will likely face another large budget shortfall.
How do we move forward after this forecast? We must make the difficult decisions people in our district have had to make for the last few years. Not just to cut, but to make careful decisions about where we should spend tax dollars, where we must keep services, and how we manage the jobs our state provides. If we are courageous, we will take this opportunity to permanently cut overhead, combine programs, and make the state more efficient instead of merely cutting programs.
As always, I welcome your feedback and ideas.