March 12th, 2012
House Passes Balanced, Responsible Budget
I sent an update on Friday morning after a midnight Sine Die the night before and, judging from the questions I’ve received, I think I could have done a more thorough job of explaining the current budget situation.
After much work on a revised version of the operating budget, the House of Representatives, for the second time during the regular session, passed a balanced and responsible budget last week. This budget was negotiated between the leaders of the House and Senate, however, the Senate was not able to pass the budget before the end of the regular session.
It seems that the most significant objection from some Senators to the latest budget proposal is the fact that it includes a one-day delay of a payment to school districts. This shift saves $330 million in the current biennium. I don’t prefer to pay anything late, but in this case the one-day delay makes sense. Without this payment shift, there would have to be $330 million more in cuts, which would hurt K-12 education, safety net programs, higher education and/or public safety. We consulted with the school districts and heard a clear answer that this one-day delay would not have a significant impact on them.
The Senate Republican budget leader has an alternative way to balance the budget. More cuts to important programs that actually cost us more money in the longer term and he wants to skip payments to the state’s pension funds. This move will become exponentially more expensive in the future. I do not believe this is a fiscally responsible plan.
The budget the House passed on Thursday is balanced and responsible. It contains no cuts to K-12 education or higher education. Plus, it saves the Basic Health Plan and many other important social safety net programs. It is a good budget for Spokane and for our entire state.
For more on the budget, please check out this excellent column from the Seattle Times.
The Governor has called for a special session, which began at noon today. The goal of the special session is to pass the operating budget, a Jobs Bill (the capital budget) and the bills necessary to implement these budgets.
I believe the special session will be relatively short since we have a responsible, balanced budget already written and it seems like the major area of disagreement (the school district payment vs. additional cuts) has been identified. It is not a small difference of opinion but it helps that it is well identified and there is largely agreement on the other elements of the budget.
I will keep you updated.