While not on the order of the love note Washington State Democrats delivered Monday to liberal activists, Republicans in Olympia today are taking credit for a gift of deceptive importance to the objective of righting the state’s fiscal ship.
House Bill 2607—a proposal spearheaded by House Republicans that would require the Office of Financial Management to publish a six-year budget outlook coinciding with the governor’s budget release—passed the state House by a vote of 97-1.
“This is a win for budget sustainability, transparency and accountability in our state,” said State Rep. Alexander (R-Olympia), ranking Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee and primary sponsor of the bill. “This is one of many budget reforms needed to help get Washington off the budget rollercoaster that has plagued us the past few years.”
“The spending decisions we make in the Legislature today aren’t just felt for one or two years; they impact us down the road for years to come,” Alexander continued. “Having a clear picture of what our state’s fiscal health looks like six years from now because of the decisions we make today will help hold legislators more accountable, keep the public more informed and, hopefully, lead to greater budget stability in the future.”
The benefit HB 2607 represents for taxpayers is substantially greater than simply giving state bean-counters a clearer view of the road ahead, it should be seen as a tool to prevent negative impacts to the state’s borrowing power that typically stem sloppy budgeting methods.
At the beginning of the month, State Treasurer Jim McIntire sent a letter to Gov. Christine Gregoire and the leadership of both parties in the Legislature, notifying them that although the three major credit rating agencies had affirmed Washington’s current “AA+” rating, two of the three had downgraded their outlook on the state from “stable” to “negative”.
In layman’s terms, McIntire’s letter informed state officials that Wall Street is deeply concerned about the use of sloppy budgeting and accounting tricks to artificially balance the government’s ledger. Forcing lawmakers to work from a six-year projection of revenues and spending would make the use of gimmicks to create an illusion of fiscal stability much more difficult.
[photo credit: aufmkolk (hafoto.de)]