Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Only 24 days remain of the 105-day session, which is scheduled to end April 24, and we have yet to see an operating budget proposal from the majority party. We were told the Democratic chair of the House Ways and Means Committee worked to craft a biennial budget following the release of the revenue forecast on March 17. However, when he brought the draft to the House speaker last Friday, it was rejected. From what we can tell, the Democrats are unable to reach agreement among themselves on a proposal.
That’s very troubling to me because the Legislature has had 80 days to write a budget. Now we are in the final three weeks and we don’t have a budget bill to vote on. I think it would be irresponsible for the majority party to push the Legislature into a special session because it does not like having to make the difficult and responsible choices necessary to pass a balanced budget.
You sent me to Olympia to help fix the budget. While the Democrats are sparring over their spending plan, my House Republican colleagues and I are working to write our own proposal. We believe the budget should not only be balanced, but sustainable. That means we should not add new programs or use one-time money to pay for ongoing programs. We also believe the budget should be based on priorities of government, which in my view comprises: education, public safety and protection of the state’s most vulnerable. We also need to avoid using gimmicks that got us in trouble in the first place, and be very transparent with the public. It should be a budget that contains no new taxes, seeks efficiencies and reforms, and provides a strong reserve in case we have future revenue drops or unforeseen emergencies. That’s the kind of budget I’m fighting for.
I will continue to call for this session to be completed within its 105-day allotted time, with a balanced and sustainable budget!
Please read on for more news.
As always, I encourage your involvement and input. Please call or e-mail my office if you have questions, comments or suggestions about legislation. You can find more information on my Web site at houserepublicans.wa.gov/Nealey.
It is an honor to serve you.
HOUSE APPROVES MAINTENANCE-LEVEL TRANSPORTATION BUDGET FOR 2011-13
Although we’ve seen little movement on the state operating budget, I am pleased to report the House took action last Friday to pass an $8.9 billion transportation budget.
Due to declining gas tax revenues and increased costs, this was a no-frills and no-new-taxes transportation budget, which contains no new projects. However, it continues to fund existing projects from both the nickel- and the nine-and-a-half cent gas tax increases that were approved several years ago.
For the 16th District, just over $15 million is allocated for local projects for the next two years, including $12 million dollars for a new interchange that connects Highway 12 and Highway 124 at Burbank. That’s in addition to $8 million that was appropriated in the previous two-year budget to pay for this $23 million project.
There’s also money for paving Highway 12 from Lowden to the Nine Mile Creek area.
The transportation budget was sent over to the Senate, which has a proposal of its own. So plenty of negotiations remain on this legislation before a final transportation plan is passed and signed by the governor.
REVENUE FORECAST DOWN, BUT REVENUES ARE HIGHER THAN PREVIOUS TWO YEARS
rch 17, the state’s quarterly revenue forecast was released. This is the report used to write the state’s operating budget. The forecast showed expected revenues are down by $778 million from the last report in November.
You’ve probably heard the governor’s budget writers say the state is now facing a $5.1 billion dollar budget deficit. But here’s something you probably haven’t heard.
Even with the declining numbers from November, the state will still be collecting $3.8 billion dollars MORE in revenue during the coming 2011-2013 budget cycle than the previous two years.
Take a look at the numbers:
2009-11: $28.047 billion
2011-13: $31.907 billion
Difference: $3.86 billion
That’s quite an eye-opener!
So what about this talk of a shortfall? It’s the difference between what the state still wants to spend over and above the increase of revenue that it is expecting to take in. That’s something to keep in mind when the operating budget is released to the public.
SENATE ADVANCES NEALEY BILL TO PROVIDE CIVIL JUDGMENTS AGAINST INMATES WHO ASSAULT CORRECTIONS OFFICERS
Progress is being made in the Senate on a bill I sponsored that would allow corrections officers to collect civil judgments from inmates who assault them.
House Bill 1334 passed the Senate Human Services and Corrections Committee on March 24.
The bill would set aside between 15 to 20 percent of earnings from inmates who have assaulted an officer.
Corrections officers tell me this could serve as another tool to protect them from assaults. They recognize that giving prisoners who already have lengthy sentences a longer time to serve for engaging in assault is not as effective as hitting them directly in the pocketbook.
Other states which have used this law have found it very effective as a deterrent against inmate assaults on prison guards.
The measure is now awaiting a vote by the full Senate.
There was an amendment that made a small technical correction in the bill. So once the measure passes the Senate, it will have to come back to the House for concurrence. I’m optimistic the measure will have no opposition and, hopefully, will be sent to the governor for her signature before the session ends.
WATCH YOUR LEGISLATURE IN ACTION ON TVW
As we approach the final days of this session, there will be plenty of debate and action on both floors of the House and Senate. I encourage you to pay close attention to the actions of your Legislature. You can watch the live debate on TWV on your local cable channel or online at www.tvw.org.
On March 16, I was interviewed on TWV’s “The Impact” program about nuclear energy legislation. Click here to watch the program.
As always, I invite your comments and ideas. Please call, write or e-mail me. You can find all of my contact information and the latest news from my Web site at: houserepublicans.wa.gov/Nealey.