Dear Friends and Neighbors,
On Thursday, March 17, the state was given an updated revenue forecast for the current and upcoming budgets. Combined, we will have to address more than a $5 billion shortfall.
Monday, we saw for the first time a proposal by the majority party in the House to close this gap. You can view that proposal here.
Our Ranking Republican on the House budget, Gary Alexander, has worked tirelessly to craft his own budget proposal, and I believe there will be bi-partisan cooperation to put together a final budget. While there are several good things in the House Democrat proposal, we need to ensure we have a budget that is sustainable for years to come – not temporarily suspending everything to make it through the next two years when we might once again have another budget problem.
The budget writers will not be winning any popularity contests as no one will like this year's budget. We all recognize that we have no choice but to make these painful cuts, and put forth our best effort to finish our work in the allotted 105 days. We should take action on the budget as soon as possible as things will not get easier the longer we wait, and going into a special session (at considerable expense) is unacceptable.
My priorities in balancing this budget are doing the least harm to education and programs that assist our most vulnerable citizens. With education, I will fight to ensure we keep levy equalization intact. This funding is essential in ensuring we provide equal opportunities in education for students across our state, regardless of whether they live in an urban or rural area. We must do all we can to provide for basic needs for our seniors, children, and those individuals with severe physical or developmental disabilities. This is not only our moral obligation, but quite frankly, it will prevent greater expenses in our hospitals and jails as more severe situations will result.
It is time for creative solutions to get us through this time. We should not simply “cut” government services, but find ways to provide them more efficiently and effectively. Our current economic situation will force state government to find creative solutions – I implore you to assist us with this task.
I always appreciate hearing from you – please call, write or e-mail my office anytime. Thanks for taking the time to read this update from Olympia.
420 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7836 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000