Tag: Chris Gregoire

Gregoire Gives Reformers an Early Christmas

After watching the Legislature play the “Grinch that Stole the Balanced Budget” earlier this week it was encouraging to open an early Christmas present offered by the Governor today.

At a press conference this morning in Olympia Governor Gregoire unveiled several reform initiatives. Among them:

While there are still many other opportunities for reform, today’s announcement by the Governor is great news and should be greeted with open arms.

Also discussed at today’s press conference was the state’s 6-year budget outlook. One thing that instantly jumped out was the impact that I-728 and I-732 continue to have on state finances.

According to the Governor, with I-728/732 included in the budget in future years the state will continue to face multi-billion dollar shortfalls. Without them, the budget is projected to be balanced in future years assuming 4.5% per year revenue growth.

Since funding was not identified for I-728/732 (other than surplus funds) when originally adopted and the measures were subsequently suspended during tough budget times, voters were asked in 2004 to approve I-884 and in 2010 to approve I-1098 to pay in-part for the policies of I-728 and I-732. Both measures were overwhelming rejected statewide.

As a result of this spending pressure as well as the more recent impact with passage of I-1163 (despite no funding source being provided), Senators Swecker, Regala, Hewitt, Harper, Schoesler, Benton, Hill and Becker have introduced a constitutional amendment that would prohibit initiatives from being placed on the ballot “if it is determined by the secretary of state that the initiative fails to provide a new or enhanced revenue source to pay for any increase in state obligations or duties that are created by the initiative.”

When asked about the proposed constitutional amendment the Governor indicated it is something she would likely vote for.

Speaking of I-1163, a bill has been introduced by Senators Regala, Swecker, Hatfield, Shin, Schoesler, Tom, Pflug, Hobbs, Holmquist Newbry and Honeyford to suspend the implementation date until July 1, 2014.


[Reprinted from the Washington Policy Center blog; photo credit: dony31]

Chris Gregoire,Washington State legislature,budget crisis,government reform,privatization

Gregoire Uses Bully Pulpit … To Surrender

The American Founders decided the executive branch of government should have just one person at the top so that the public can know who is ultimately accountable for carrying out what government does. Washington state voters elect nine executive branch officials, but the focus remains on the governor, who has an ability over and above any individual legislator to speak to the media and the public and direct the conversation—the so-called “bully pulpit.”

This is especially true in a crisis. And, at least for the political class and other tax consumers, the current $1.4 billion budget shortfall is such a crisis.

Yet Gov. Christine Gregoire has proved incapable of using “the bully pulpit” to any effect. Of course, neither have legislative leaders like Speaker of the House Frank Chopp or Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown. Sure everyone has expressed a desire to move forward, to make hard decisions and all that. But no one, least of all the Governor, has put forward a compelling case, has named names of those holding the process back, has used leverage to produce actual progress (and these people call themselves progressives!).

Gov. Gregoirie presents a particularly sad case, always pandering and apologizing, always full of herself but never sure of herself. She’s terribly sorry for proposing cuts, but has no choice. She’s terribly sorry that the proposed tax hike isn’t bigger, but it’s politics, you know.

It may be politics, but it’s not leadership. If the Governor wants a bigger tax increase, she should make her case, and the same goes for legislators. It’s part of their jobs to make honest (and public) arguments and then move ahead knowing that compromise, in politics, is inevitable. And sometimes you even lose.

Instead, Gov. Gregoire has preemptively surrendered, at least on the timeline. And this is the issue she’s right about—cutting quickly means cutting less with more time to implement policy changes. It’s the one piece of Gov. Gregoire’s proposal that’s simple common sense and it’s the one piece she’s publicly walking away from.

Some want to shift more spending power to the Governor’s office and away from the people’s representatives in the legislature. But Wednesday’s Seattle Times editorial nails it: the problem is not just the current shortfall, the problem is a system designed to grow at an unsustainable rate. It’s a problem only the legislature can solve. And if the current elected leadership aren’t up to the job, the people need to know it. Only then can voters make informed choices.


[Reprinted from the Freedom Foundation blog; photo credit: Andre Bohrer]

Gov. Gregoire, What Part of ‘No’ Didn’t You Understand?

Governor Gregoire is at it again, proposing another tax hike to deal with yet another budget deficit. We’ve seen this story before: the legislature in Olympia patches together a budget that just barely balances, with a proposed tax increase as the glue to keep it from falling apart. But because Initiative 1053 is still in effect (two similar initiatives having previously been enacted and subsequently gutted), the tax increase must go to a vote of the people. So the people of Washington will vote down another tax increase (as they did twice in 2010), the legislature will return to try to patch the budget, and the whole process starts again.

Does anyone really expect that the Governor’s proposed half percent half billion dollar increase in the sales tax will not go down to defeat by a similar 60+% margin? By kicking the can down the road to an election in March, more time is wasted and the decisions just get that much tougher. But that is not the worse of it: in order to assist the voters in getting “their mind right”, the Governor suggests the new budget should include deep cuts; not to non-essential services, but to education, criminal justice and other necessary programs popular with the voting public. In a cynical move, these cuts are little more than hostages to be freed once the public coughs up the necessary new tax funds. If, as I suspect, the voters of Washington refused to pay this blackmail, the legislature will be back in Olympia re-writing the budget to back-fill the priority programs and start making the cuts they should have in the first place.

For once, couldn’t we just skip this nonsense and work on a budget that makes the tough decisions and so doesn’t require a special session every few months?


Voters May Be Asked to Increase Sales Tax by Half a Billion Dollars

Thanks to Washingtonians’ approval of I-1053’s 2/3 vote requirement for tax increases in 2010, voters will have the final say on any potential tax increases in 2012.

When announcing her budget yesterday, Governor Gregoire said she wants voters to weigh in on her plan to raise the sales tax by $500 million for the current budget. Involving the voters in this decision would not be occurring if not for the four-time voter approval of the state’s 2/3 vote requirement for tax increases (currently under legal challenge).

Under the 2/3 requirement, if a broad consensus cannot be reached in the Legislature to increase citizens’ tax burden, a simple majority of lawmakers can put a tax referendum on the ballot for the voters to consider. This is likely what will occur now that the Governor has indicated she wants a March vote for Washingtonians to consider her half a billion dollar sales tax increase.

Here is the timeline for that scenario to unfold according to the Secretary of State:

  • Dec. 30 – Last day for Legislature to pass tax referendum bill for March 13 election
  • February 10 – Military and overseas ballots mailed for March election
  • February 21 – Mailing of voters’ pamphlets begins for March 13 election
  • February 24 – Regular ballots mailed for March 13 election
  • March 13 – Election Day

There will be plenty of time to debate the merits of the Governor’s tax proposal but one thing isn’t open for debate, I-1053 is working exactly the way voters intended by providing them the opportunity to ultimately decide this important question.

To help ensure this opportunity continues in the future, if lawmakers are going to send voters a proposed tax referendum they should also put a constitutional amendment enforcing the four-time voter approved 2/3 vote requirement for tax increases on the ballot. This would provide the public and businesses with predictability about whether this tax protection will exist from year to year and clarify whether or not the four-time approval of the voters for this policy was a fluke or actually reflects their consistent and ongoing desire for lawmakers to build a strong public consensus on the need for any proposed tax increase.


[Reprinted from the Washington Policy Center blog; photo credit: BankSimple]

McKenna, Gregoire Recognized Nationally for Leadership

Prior to closing down, the motto for Olympia Beer was “It’s the water.”

Based on recent news from the Attorney General’s Office, there is definitely something in the water in Washington that leads to our leaders being recognized nationally.

Yesterday a press release was issued announcing that Attorney General Rob McKenna has been selected by his peers to be President of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG).

This means that Washington now has elected officials leading two major national organizations. Governor Gregoire was selected last year by her peers to be Chair of the National Governor’s Association (NGA).

Incidentally, Gregoire also served as President of NAAG in 2000 while Attorney General.

But Washington’s national finger prints don’t end there. Secretary of State Sam Reed previously served as President of the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS).

Congratulations to all three for their past and present recognition as national leaders.


[Reprinted with headline changed from the Washington Policy Center blog.]

[photo credit: flickr]

Governor Signs Agency Consolidation/Contracting Reform

Last week Governor Gregoire signed a proposal to consolidate several administrative agencies and create a review process to help identify opportunities for some competitive contracting. Sponsored by Senators Baumgartner and Zarelli, SB 5931 creates a new Department of Enterprise Services and Department of Consolidated Technology Services by consolidating several administrative agencies and activities.

According to the bill report, SB 5931 also requires:

“OFM must examine on a biennial basis which services within DES might be performed by the private sector. OFM will select six activities each biennium to competitively bid to the private sector. If service cannot be provided at a lower rate or more efficiently, OFM will cancel the bid. If the bid is canceled, OFM must notify the legislative fiscal committees. OFM must report on the results of these examinations biennially and the legislative fiscal committees must hold a public hearing on the reports. The Joint Legislative and Audit Review Committee (JLARC) will conduct a study of the implementation of contracting for services at DES and report to the Legislature by January 1, 2018. DES must also examine state procurement practices and report on recommendations for improvement by October 30, 2011.”

SB 5931 implements several of the recommendations of the Governor’s Budget Transformation Committee which I served on last summer.
From the committee’s recommendations:

  • “Create an umbrella administrative agency combining the Department of Information Services (DIS), Office of Financial Management (OFM), Department of Personnel, Department of General Administration, and State Printer. Prioritize essential state services, and define state roles to increase effectiveness and save time and money.”
  • “Amend the law to allow for more contracting out and easier state employee competitive bidding in general.”

Here is video of the Governor’s signing statement on SB 5931:

I testified on a previous version of SB 5931 (HB 1720) at the Governor’s request earlier this year to provide lawmakers with a perspective of the Budget Transformation Committee and to offer support for this important reform.

Here is video of my testimony:

The Governor’s signature on SB 5931 is an important step in the right direction to help streamline state government and begin to restore balance concerning competitive contracting and the state’s 2002 civil service reform.

As JLARC discovered in its 2007 performance audit and we re-affirmed with a survey of state agencies in 2009, the state’s competitive contracting laws under the 2002 civil service reform aren’t working as advertised.

Here is what JLARC found in 2007:

“…few agencies have competitively contracted for services in the 16 months since receiving authorization to do so. Agency managers reported two main reasons for not competitively contracting. First, managers perceive the process itself to be complicated and confusing, providing a disincentive to pursue competitive contracting.

Second, competitive contracting is a subject of collective bargaining, which creates additional challenges by requiring labor negotiations. Managers must bargain, at a minimum, the impacts of competitive contracting. Additionally, some agency collective bargaining agreements include provisions which prohibit agencies from competitively contracting.”

In a 2009 update of the JLARC audit, I asked the state Office of Financial Management’s contract division how many personal service contracts have been requested or approved by agencies under the “Civil Service Competition” provision of the 2002 law. The answer was zero.

Among those who voted for the 2002 civil service reform was Sen. Kastama. Explaining his vote in support of SB 5931, one of the reasons he gave was that “To date no substantial contracting out has taken place” under the 2002 law.

Sen. Kastama went on to say:

“This was a bargain that was made with the people of Washington State in 2002. It’s something I think those of us who voted for it are obligated to carry through. We can’t just say we’re going to go head and put forward civil service reform and that these provisions somehow seem to fade away from memory . . .  This bill I think is a step in that direction. As disagreeable as it may be to many of the particular interest groups I think it’s agreeable to the citizens of Washington state.”

State employee unions, however, believe the status quo was working just fine and asked the Governor to veto the contracting reforms from the bill. Here is a copy of the union’s veto request letter.

By declining to issue the requested veto and deciding to move forward with the reforms as proposed by the Budget Transformation Committee and lawmakers, the Governor has helped moved the state a little bit closer to the compromise envisioned in 2002.

As noted by Sen. Baumgartner:

“This reform represents a fundamental shift in the focus of state government toward delivering services as efficiently as possible. This measure, which I am proud to have sponsored, will save taxpayers money and provide greater value for every dollar spent, by allowing agencies to contract-out nonessential services if, and only if, doing so will save the state money.”


[photo credit: flickr]

[Reprinted from the Washington Policy Center blog.]


Liquor “Emergency” and Performance Audit Fund Raid Stand

Over the past few weeks there was speculation as to whether Governor Gregoire would veto the emergency clause off of a liquor contract bill as well as veto the Legislature’s raid of the voter-approved dedicated performance audit fund. The answer is no – both actions stand as approved by the Legislature.

Here is video of the Governor explaining why she didn’t veto the emergency clause off of SB 5942:

When asked if she would rule out signing a contract before the voters have the opportunity to weigh in on the new liquor privatization initiative she said it was highly unlikely a contract could be approved before the election but she’s learned to “never say never.”

Here is video of those comments:

In an editorial today, the Seattle Times hopes she says never:

“The new law has an emergency clause, which falsely declares that leasing out the state’s wholesale liquor monopoly is ‘necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health or safety’ or ‘support of the state government and its existing public institutions.’

But the state budget has already been passed, and the bill is not necessary for any of that. The false emergency clause was put on to forestall a citizen referendum and to allow the state to rush into a contract before the people can vote on a better plan.

That plan is Initiative 1183. It would continue liquor as a moneymaker for the state while getting the state out of the business of selling it. It is backed by the Washington Restaurant Association, the Northwest Grocery Association and Costco, and is likely to be on the ballot in November.

The people of Washington deserve a choice on the question of who sells liquor here. Gregoire’s administration should postpone any final commitment under the new law until after the November election, to see how the people vote on Initiative 1183.”

Another highly anticipated decision was whether she would follow the precedent sent in 2009 when she vetoed a $29 million raid of the dedicated performance audit account. While saying she disagrees with what the Legislature did this year by re-directing performance audit funds, she was not able to veto this action without vetoing the activities funded.

Here is video of her explanation about the lack of veto on the performance audit fund raid:

By allowing the Legislature to win this game of chicken, creative lawmakers now have the road map to access the formerly dedicated performance audit funds. Rather than use a fund transfer that is easy for a Governor to veto (as occurred in 2009), it is likely future legislative raids will take the form of this year’s re-appropriation of the “dedicated” funds to other agencies.


[photo credit: flickr]

[Reprinted from the Washington Policy Center blog.]

Attorney General Rob McKenna Will Announce Run for Governor, Sources Say

According to inside sources, Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna will announce his campaign for governor Wednesday evening.

Late Tuesday afternoon, the McKenna campaign released a statement that a “major announcement” would be made at an event scheduled for 6:00 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center at Sammamish High School.

An announcement of candidacy by McKenna would be the first in the 2012 Washington gubernatorial race. Two-term incumbent Democrat Gov. Christine Gregoire has yet to reveal her intentions, and would-be gubernatorial hopeful Congressman Jay Inslee is holding back on his announcing his plans until Gregoire’s are fully known.

Many feel that McKenna represents the Republican’s best opportunity to retake the governor’s office since it was lost to the Democrats in 1985; his campaign may be taking early action to ensure that those hopes are not left unfulfilled.

An early declaration by McKenna could also help obtain an early advantage in the race to raise campaign funds, but also to secure a head-start in the effort to recruit activists and take the lead on articulating why Republican leadership from the state chief executive is preferable.

The late entry into the 2010 U.S. Senate race by Republican challenger Dino Rossi has been speculated by some to have allowed second-tier candidates to lay claim to grass roots networks and shape the form of attacks against Sen. Patty Murray (D).


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