Tag: Christine Gregoire (Page 1 of 2)

Gregoire Files Legal Brief in 2/3 Vote for Taxes Lawsuit

Last year several House Democrats joined the Washington Education Association (WEA) and the League of Education Voters to file a lawsuit to overturn the four-time voter approved 2/3 vote requirement for tax increases.

Today Governor Gregoire filed a legal brief urging the Court to rule on this issue. From her brief (in-part)

“Governor Christine Gregoire asks this Court to decide the constitutionality of the supermajority requirement of Initiative 1053. The Governor’s aim is not to advocate one view of constitutional interpretation or another–the plaintiffs and the Attorney General have sharpened the issues and legal arguments and present this Court with a sound basis to decide this matter. Instead, the Governor presents her view that this is the right time, the right court and the right procedural posture for the Court to decide this important constitutional issue. The Governor believes the opinion of the Court will be beneficial to the public and to the proper execution of her duties, which include a constitutional and statutory role in the proposal and enactment of laws that raise state revenue. These duties are impacted by the ongoing uncertainty about the constitutionality of the two-thirds vote requirement.”

According to the Court, next Wednesday (January 18) the “Court will make a ruling off the record regarding the page limits and briefing schedule for the summary judgment.”

Rather than leave the decision in the Court’s hands, the Governor instead should encourage lawmakers to end this debate once and for all by providing Washingtonians the opportunity to vote on a constitutional amendment reaffirming the policy during the 2012 general election. 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 repeated 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.

Here is the track record for the 2/3 vote requirement or voter approval for taxes policy at the ballot:

  • 2010: I-1053 – Required 2/3 vote or voter approval for tax increases (64% yes)
  • 2007: I-960 – Required 2/3 vote or voter approval for tax increases (51% yes)
  • 1999: I-695 – Required voter approval of all tax increases (56% yes)
  • 1998: R-49 – Reaffirmed provisions of 1993 I-601 (57% yes)
  • 1993: I-601 – Required 2/3 vote for tax increases (51% yes)

Ironically, using only a simple majority vote, the legislature has suspended the two-thirds vote threshold three times. This occurred most recently during the 2010 Legislative Session, when lawmakers passed SB 6130. The two previous times the legislature suspended the two-thirds requirement were in 2002 (SB 6819) and 2005 (SB 6078).

Despite numerous legislative amendments to the section of law (Revised Code of Washington 43.135) containing the two-thirds vote requirement, the legislature has never fully repealed the voter-passed mandate that tax increases require a two-thirds vote.

In fact, in 2006 the legislature shortened its own 2005 suspension and voted explicitly to reinstate the two-thirds vote requirement so its suspension ended a year sooner than it would have otherwise (SB 6896). This bill was supported only by Democrats including Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown (the bill primarily dealt with increasing the spending limit but an amendment was adopted reinstating the 2/3 vote requirement a year early).

Despite her support for reinstating the 2/3 vote requirement a year early in 2006, here is a recent TVW interview where Senator Brown discusses why she believes the Court should overturn the voter-approved and legislative reaffirmed 2/3 vote requirement for tax increases:

(Click here for video)

Here is what the Attorney General’s Office said (in-part) back in 2008 about the constitutionality of the 2/3 vote requirement when it was last challenged in court (page 37 – legal citations omitted):

“Petitioner attempts to meet her ‘responsibility of proving that [RCW 43.135.035(1)] is unconstitutional beyond a reasonable doubt’ on the basis of a constitutional provision that, by its own terms, does not prohibit the statute that she challenges. Article 2, Section 22 provides, ‘[n]o bill shall become a law unless . . . a majority of the members elected to each house be recorded thereon as voting in its favor.’ Article 2, Section 22 establishes a constitutional minimum number of votes for a bill to become law. It only describes the circumstances under which a bill does not pass. In other words, Article 2, Section 22 does not prohibit statutes by which the legislature (or the people) express their legislative policy judgment that certain types of bills warrant greater than simple majority consensus for passage. RCW 43.135.035(1) expresses such a legislative policy judgment—that a two-thirds majority vote of each house should be required for passage of bills raising taxes. The statute hardly conflicts with the constitutional floor set by Article 2, Section 22, as any bill receiving its supermajority support has met the requirement of Article 2, Section 22 . . .

Both the framers of the constitution and subsequent legislatures and voters have recognized that certain specified actions should command the support of more than a simple majority. Petitioners, to the contrary, urge that the same constitutional convention that embraced supermajorities for some purposes intended to prohibit statutes requiring supermajorities for any other purposes. The Constitution contains no language supporting this notion, however. The framers may not reasonably be presumed to have implied the prohibition of a political mechanism that they themselves adopted through language that does not say so. Given the plenary legislative authority of the people and the legislature, and the absence of a clear constitutional prohibition, the Court should not conclude otherwise.”


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

Gregoire’s Pay After Retirement Will Be Greater Due to Pensions

Whatever else stepping down as governor will cost Christine Gregoire, she doesn’t figure to suffer financially.

In fact, her state pension currently projects to be $3,000 a year more than she’s earning as Washington’s chief executive.

According to documents obtained in a public disclosure request by the Freedom Foundation, Gregoire’s pension was calculated last July by the Washington State Department of Retirement System at $169,248 annually.

He salary as governor is $166,899 — the 10th highest of any U.S. governor, while Washington’s population ranks it No. 13 in the nation.

By the time of her retirement next January at age 64, Gregoire will have worked a total of 40 years in state government, including 20 in non-elective offices and 20 as an elected official with two terms as attorney general and governor, respectively.

Under the Public Employees’ Retirement System (PERS) Plan 1, Gregoire will receive a monthly check totaling $14,104, which includes $8,377 for her elected service and $5,724 for her non-elected positions.

PERS Plan 1, in which Gregoire participates, offers a single-life benefit, meaning she will receive the highest possible monthly payment and her beneficiary will not continue to collect her pension after her death.

She also opted for a plan that does not include an annual cost of living adjustment in order to maximize her payments immediately.

Gregoire’s husband Mike, who retired in 2003 after 30 years as a healthcare investigator in the Department of Social and Health Services, currently earns a pension of $2,699.23 per month — a total of $32,390.76 annually.


[Reprinted from The Olympia Report; photo credit: npimultimedia]

Gregoire Deserves Blame for Budget Imbalance for Failing to Prioritize Spending | Guest Op-Ed

On January 9, the Washington State Legislature will come back to session. On their busy agenda is rectifying the horrendous $2 billion budget deficit that they delayed reforming in the last legislative session. While our budget crisis may seem like the fault of an ineffective legislature, the fault lies in the hands of Governor Gregoire.

To understand why Gov. Gregoire is to blame for our current predicament you must look back to the inactions of this past fall. In September, the Governor acknowledged the state had a $2 billion budget problem and stated she would call a special session at the end of November for the legislature to solve the problem. This resulted in the legislature approving a plan that made $480 million adjustments through a combination of cuts, transfers and delayed payments. The legislature delayed acting on the remaining $1.5 billion problem till January 2012. This delay violates Washington law, which requires the governor to implement across-the-board cuts if the legislature fails to act.

What this all boils down to is that due to Gov. Gregoire’s failure to lead, Washington State has ended the last three fiscal years with a deficit for the first time in history.

To remedy the current budget crisis, Gov. Gregoire must issue an immediate Executive Order for across the board cuts totaling $2 billion that would go into effect in 30 days if the legislature does not come up with equivalent savings by that time.

Governor Gregoire and the Washington state legislature also need to return to the performance based budget model that was so successful in 2003.  Performance based budgeting is based upon priority based outcome measures which are linked to the well-defined core functions of state government.

Governor Gregoire  abandoned former Governor Locke’s priority of government (POG) model which was a performance based budged in order to return to business as usual. This was a fatally flawed decision that will be felt in the taxpayers’ wallets for years to come.

The time for political promises and empty, ineffective budget ideas are over. Gov. Gregoire must take action now and begin to lead Washington State out of the red.


[photo credit: WSDOT]


Gregoire’s Ill-Timed Push for Gay Marriage is D.C.-Brand Democratic Political Escapism | Opinion

When legislators return to Olympia — only several weeks after a failing to deal with all of the state’s $2 billion budget gap in a special session — will gay marriage be a distraction or just another bill on the calendar? The answer lies in the fact that Gregoire — like so many of her predecessors — is a two-term Democratic governor without any claim to a legacy.

If the tendency for personal ambition is coded into our DNA, all politicians can claim common genetic heritage, Gregoire being no exception. If the book closed tomorrow on Gregoire, her story would be a tale of mediocrity set against a backdrop of government failure.

During her tenure, state spending has increased; at the same time revenues sag and deficits balloon. State transportation planners endeavor on a mission that balks at focusing on the reduction of congestion on roadways, a failure that impedes economic growth and wears away the quality of life that was once part of Washington State’s appeal.

In her lame duck year, it’s now or never. Gay marriage is the first item on a legacy-themed scavenger hunt, a diversion from the fiscal instability that affects all Washingtonians, gay or straight. Ironically, in the process of building a legacy, Gregoire may be sowing seeds of an even less flattering record in office.

By introducing socially divisive and ideologically driven legislation to legalize gay marriage in Washington State in the midst of a state budget crisis, Democrats in Washington State are ripping a page from their federal comrades’ playbook, but without paying attention to the lessons of events so recent they cannot really even be called history.

In 2009, as unemployment surged and the integrity of the federal budget strained during the most serious economic crisis since the Great Depression, Pres. Barack Obama and the Democrat-controlled Congress were also facing a crisis of conscience. Would they use the tremendous power of one-party control of government to remedy the nation’s cancerous fiscal condition, or embark upon a crusade to capture the progressive Holy Grail – a national healthcare system – one that would produce a body count among friend and foe alike?

Democrats, looking down the path to a possible destination where reasonable solutions to budget problems might be found but one that would run them through a gauntlet of special interests that would present obstacles at every turn, chose to turn away. Though temporarily victorious with the passage of Obamacare, the tone of the debate – a shrill exchange of straw man arguments, red herrings, smears and slanders – the scorched earth tactics employed drew clear battle lines, and voters were encouraged to adopt the lexicon of combat in their own political dialogue.

Voters punished Democrats for their dalliance and the harsh reward for dozens of Democratic politicians who put their necks out to pass Obamacare, the $1.7 trillion stimulus package, costly bailouts of private corporations, and other controversial congressional acts was to be swept out of office in the Republican wave that raced across the country in the 2010 elections.

It should be no surprise that so little has been accomplished by our elected representatives in Washington, D.C. In the climate created during the passage of several major pieces of divisive and unpopular legislation – of which Obamacare was only the most costly – collegiality became a very, very bad word.

Gregoire has placed the Washington State Legislature on a similar path, a way to avoid the difficult route to fiscal responsible that must navigate a briar patch of incestuous relationships between the government and Democrats’ political patrons.

The course is all too tempting, not for the marginal and superficial change it would make for same sex couples wishing to formalize their relationships – same sex partnerships already enjoy the same rights and benefits in Washington State as do heterosexual married couples – but for the opportunity to take a vacation from the responsibility to govern. The ensuing fray has the very real potential to force legislators in Olympia to dig in and in the polarized atmosphere that follows avoid discussions to reach agreements that will benefit the people of the state.

In placing a social issue ahead of more important fiscal problems that impact every Washingtonian, Gregoire ironically cements her legacy not as a champion for civil rights, but as an uncourageous political escapist and an architect of political gridlock.


[photo credit: City of West Hollywood]

Concerns About Giving Enhanced Budget Powers to Governor Should Be Considered Alongside Benefits | Opinion

With the Legislature consistently showing itself willing to wait to the last moment to bring the state’s budget into balance, Washington Policy Center has proposed changing the Governor’s current across-the-board authority to respond to a deficit to discretionary authority to make surgical reductions to enact timely savings.

One potential way this new discretionary budget cutting authority could be structured could be something along the lines of allowing the Governor to make discretionary reductions that don’t exceed a set % (maybe between 5-10%) of an agency’s appropriations. Cuts in excess of the set % would require approval of a standing legislative emergency budget committee (made up of four corners). No reductions could be made in independently elected statewide officials’ budgets without their approval or the standing legislative committee.

All reductions made would have to be immediately reported to legislative fiscal committees and posted on OFM/fiscal.wa.gov. This type of enhanced budget cutting authority for the Governor should provide enough discretion while addressing any accountability or transparency concerns while providing budget reduction tools other than current one size fits all across-the-board cuts option.

In response to this proposal, concerns about separation of powers have been raised as well as objections to providing the Governor too much control over the budget. Similar concerns have been raised at the federal level about providing the President with line-item veto authority.

With these concerns in mind, why should the Governor be provided enhanced budget cutting authority?

It’s all about providing the right incentives. Consider the following under the discretionary budget cutting authority we’ve suggested:

  • The Governor could only cut spending, not increase.
  • The Governor can’t unilaterally raise taxes so the state’s default deficit response sans legislative action would be spending reductions, not tax increases.
  • The Governor could not zero out an agency’s budget since the authority would be restricted to cuts within a certain percentage without approval of the legislative emergency budget committee.
  • The Governor could not target political rivals since reductions in independently elected statewide officials’ budgets would require their approval or that of the legislative emergency budget committee.
  • The Governor would be directly and solely accountable to voters for any reductions made.
  • The Legislature could undo any cuts implemented by the Governor by calling itself into a special session or at the next regular session.

Most importantly, the Legislature for the most part could avoid this discretionary budget cutting authority for the Governor from ever being utilized by adopting sustainable budgets and providing a meaningful reserve fund to help the state weather all but the most extreme economic downturns.

Here is a summary of the various budget cutting authority for Governors across the country.


[Reprinted from the Washington Policy Center blog]

Daily Double-take: Gregoire Wants Unions to Re-negotiate Health Care Benefits

Tomorrow Governor Gregoire will be holding a press conference outlining her recommendations to address the state’s budget deficit. Today her budget director Marty Brown sent a letter to state unions informing them that the Governor was re-opening the 2011-13 health care benefits agreement “in order to negotiate a reduction in the employer premium contribution.”

Here is a copy of the OFM letter.

Last year the Governor and unions agreed to change the health-care ratio for state employees from an 88-12 split to 85-15. This was far below the 74-26 split the Governor had previously said was necessary.

Moving from the current 85-15 split to 75-25 could save as much as $30 million (preliminary numbers).

While this is an encouraging development, ultimately the Legislature should have full authority to make this change on its own.

Under the 2002 collective bargaining law, state unions no longer have their priorities weighed equally with every other special interest during the legislative budget process. Instead they now negotiate directly with the Governor, while lawmakers only have the opportunity to say yes or no to the entire contract agreed to with the Governor. Lawmakers can’t make any changes.

To put the Legislature back in charge of the budget so that all spending can be truly prioritized, the 2002 collective bargaining law should be repealed and replaced with something similar to what Indiana did in 2005.

One of the first things Governor Mitch Daniels did when he took office in 2005 was to issue this Executive Order which in effect ended any state negotiations with unions.

In response to my email asking about this action, Anita Samuel, Assistant General Counsel/Policy Director for Gov. Daniels, wrote:

“Employees are still able to pay union dues through payroll deductions. It is completely their choice. Union reps are allowed to represent employees in the grievance procedure. We expanded who was eligible to take a grievance through our State Employees Appeals Commission under this EO. Every employee, merit and non-merit below an executive level could file a complaint. The prior process only applied to merit employees.

The state does not negotiate with the unions on any issues. At times, the State Personnel Department will meet with the unions when requested. The state sets the compensation, pay for performance increases and benefits without negotiating with the unions. Governor Daniels put in place a robust pay for performance system starting in 2006. The first year the structure was 0% for does not meet expectation, 4% for meets and 10% exceeds.  The second year it was 0,3,8.5%. Employees were also given a 1.5% general salary increase that the legislature called for. I think that most employees were pleased with this system.”

Unions exist to fight for their members, not to advocate for policy that is in the best interest of taxpayers. This why it is incumbent on the Legislature to have the authority to weigh all spending requests equally in the context of the priorities of all taxpayers and citizens and not be cut out of budget decisions totaling millions of dollars.


[Reprinted from the Washington Policy Center blog; photo credit: BC Gov Photos]

Inslee and Gregoire at Odds on Closing Tax Loopholes to Solve State Budget Crisis

[Update: Comments from WSRP Chairman Kirby Wilbur added at bottom.]

On Thursday’s announcement by Gov. Christine Gregoire of a late November special legislative session to resolve the state’s $1.5 billion budget woes, Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature traded opening statements in the press, and the candidates for governor added their own comments.

Congressman and Democratic candidate for governor Jay Inslee came out with a quick statement after the announcement, a sharp contrast to his notable silence over the past week as details of the state’s worsening revenue picture came out. Today, Inslee suggested that the Legislature should steer clear of making further cuts to education and took aim at corporate tax breaks including exemptions given to banks lending to first-time home buyers.

“There are still options for the legislature to pursue including finding savings by closing ineffective corporate tax loopholes, such as the exemption for out-of-state banks,” said Inslee.

Ironically, in coming out against the breaks, Inslee put himself at odds with Gregoire. Asked by a reporter at Thursday’s press conference to address those who support closing loopholes, Gregoire’s answer seemed to take dead aim at the congressman’s loophole-cinching solution.

“For the alleged tax loophole as has been described… there is always some advocate, there’s always some consequence and often times it’s a job that will be lost,” Gregoire said. “That may be a big answer in Washington, D.C., but we don’t do what they do.” (Video below.)

On the subject of whether taxes should be the preferred area of discussion, Inslee consulted the progressive thesaurus when advocating for focusing on taxes.

“I hope the legislature seriously addresses the questions about how we put ourselves on a long-term path to economic recovery and how to preserve priorities like education that create economic opportunity, and make responsible investments in our families and future,” Inslee said.

But selling the idea that taxes are investments requires the additional logical step of connecting government spending with a benefit of some sort, a case indirectly made more difficult because of widely-reported failures in the type of federal government investment Inslee supports. Recent revelations of billion dollar losses in failed loans to solar panel manufacturer Solyndra and Seattle’s failure to convert $20 million in federal grant funds into even 20 new jobs may spoil, in the minds of voters, the elegance of Inslee’s equation.

In contrast, Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna’s comment stuck to safer ground, praising Gregoire’s decision to call the session before January and suggesting that a diplomatic process is what Washington needs.

“No one can be pleased with the situation that our state budget is in, but I do congratulate the Governor for recognizing the need for action this year, and scheduling a special legislative session to start November 28,” McKenna said. “I look forward, as should all Washingtonians, to a speedy and bi-partisan resolution to the current challenge after legislative leaders spend the next two months negotiating with the Governor.”

The dream of a peaceful deliberation and compromise is probably dead on arrival, however, since legislators have been jockeying for the rhetorical high ground since before the state issued a newer, darker revenue forecast last week.

Even before last week’s disappointing forecast was released, State Sen. Joe Zarelli, Senate Republican leader on budget issues, had called loudly for the Governor to assemble a nine-member “Super Legislature” – not unlike the bipartisan Super Congress in the nation’s capital – to recommend budget solutions. Zarelli and State Senate Republican Leader Mike Hewitt made it clear in their joint statement they will seek a dialogue on that model and talks should begin with assessing spending priorities, not raising taxes.

“[The focus] needs to remain on figuring out which state services are priorities and how to provide those as cost-effectively as possible, because that’s how we will move our budget toward long-term sustainability,” said Zarelli and Hewitt. “We know from recent history that as soon as discussions begin about increasing revenue, all talk of reforms seems to evaporate.”

On the other side of the aisle, State Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown (D) and State Sen. Ed Murray issued a joint statement with a blatant nod to the gun Democrats will be laying on the negotiating table.

“As legislators, we have many tools for balancing our budget,” said Brown and Murray. “Including giving the voters the option of approving new revenue to pay for the services they want.”

The option alluded to is sending a referendum to voters for tax increases, an alternative that key Democrats have floated for several weeks, despite clear signals from State Sen. Joe Zarelli (R) that a referendum should not count on support from Senate Republicans.

A tax referendum could prove to be a double-edged sword for Democrats in 2012 if voters perceive the move as a way to sidestep legislative duties by outsourcing tough political choices.

“The voters of Washington in November 2010 soundly rejected tax increases and new taxes. With a stagnant economy, there is no reason to think they have changed their minds,” Washington State Republican Party Chairman Kirby Wilbur told NW Daily Marker by email. “If the Democrats put an increase in taxes on the November 2012 ballot, I will have to reconsider my beliefs about Santa Claus. That move would guarantee a Republican statewide victory, a new governor and majorities in both houses of the Legislature.”


[photo credit: djfrantic]

Gregoire Calls Special Session to Start November 28

Governor Gregoire announced this morning she is calling a special session to start November 28 to address the state’s $1 billion plus budget deficit.

Here are my notes from her press conference:

  • Need budget to be done in one special session – she won’t call another.
  • The total budget reductions needed are in the range of $2 billion to provide for a minimal reserve fund.
  • The goal of the budget is long-term sustainability.
  • By addressing the budget deficit in the special session, lawmakers can focus the 2012 regular session on job creation.
  • The 10% proposed agency reductions due to today will help to guide the Governor’s budget plan she hopes to release the week of October 24.
  • Lawmakers can no longer use a “Pac Man” approach to the budget. Instead entire programs need to be eliminated versus merely suspended or reduced.
  • Talks of a tax package are “premature” though nothing is being taken off the table.
  • Tax loopholes are not a panacea as often times a job will be lost by closing them.

The Governor was also asked about the Tacoma teacher strike and whether she agrees with the 2006 Attorney General Opinion that teacher strikes are illegal. She said the issue was “unresolved” and that she didn’t support changing the law to provide for automatic fines or penalties saying instead that was the role of the Courts to determine.

As a contrast, here is the “Taylor Act” in New York which not only makes it crystal clear teacher strikes are illegal but also imposes automatic fines and penalties for violation.

Here is the Governor’s press release announcing the special session.


[Reprinted from the Washington Policy Center blog.]

Gregoire Threatens ‘Detention’ To Parties in Tacoma Teacher Strike

[Update: Comment from Gov. Gregoire’s spokeswoman added shortly after initial publication.]

Washington State Gov. Christine Gregoire issued a statement Wednesday demanding that the parties involved in Tacoma’s five-day-old teacher strike come to Olympia if the day’s efforts by the teacher’s union and school administration to reach an agreement was unsuccessful.

In a tone not unlike a principal speaking to unruly children through the intercom, Gregoire’s statement set the expectation for a late afternoon session that would not end until headway could be made toward a resolution between the teachers union and school administrators:

“There is no question that the Tacoma teacher strike has continued for far too long – disrupting the lives of families and the 28,000 students who need to be in school. I directed, and both sides have agreed to return to the bargaining table this morning. If no deal is reached by 3 p.m. this afternoon, both the district and the union will report to my office and stay until their differences are reconciled and the school doors reopen.”

But Gregoire might have a heavy hammer to swing in her effort to break the strike, if she wants to use one. According to an opinion written by State Attorney General Rob McKenna in 2006, as public employees, teachers “do not have a legally protected right to strike.”

In an opinion written to address questions raised by State Rep. Toby Nixon, McKenna took the position that although specific remedies and penalties are not defined in state law, the Governor should be on solid ground to seek a court order to force an end to the strike. In the case that teachers refuse to obey a hypothetical court order, the Governor could ask the courts to levy punishment for contempt.

If the Governor desired to use the threat of monetary discomfort as a tool to get teachers back into their classrooms, she might look to New York State law for legal validation. New York’s Taylor Act not only makes public employees strikes illegal, but defines automatic fines for striking workers, to be taken directly from employee’s checks. From the Taylor Act: [Bold mine.]

Not earlier than thirty nor later than ninety days following the date of such determination, the chief fiscal officer of the government involved shall deduct from the compensation of each such public employee an amount equal to twice his daily rate of pay for each day or part thereof that it was determined that he had violated this subdivision

NW Daily Marker emailed Gregoire’s office and asked if the Governor concurs with the Attorney General’s opinion and if she would support fining striking workers. Spokeswoman Karina Shagren sent us this response:

No Washington statute has been enacted that says it is unlawful for teachers to strike and no precedential Washington court case has ever answered the question.   The 2006 Attorney General opinion recognizes these facts, and relies on common law principles that have been applied in other contexts but may or may not be applied in the context of teacher strikes.  We simply do not have a black and white answer.

Ending the strike through judicial orders and appeals will only leave bitterness and dissatisfaction.  That is why the governor has consistently been asking both sides to stay at the table and end the strike by reaching resolution—one that will satisfy the needs of the district while also ensuring teachers remain proud to report to the classroom everyday to provide students with the best possible learning opportunities.


[photo credit: photoscott]

Gregoire Drags Feet on Calling Critical Special Session

After news of the revenue forecast’s $1.4 billion drop in revenue for the 2011-13 budget and the now $1.3 billion budget hole confronting the state—assuming use of every last red cent of reserves—Gov. Christine Gregoire promptly issued a press release where she stated that waiting until the regular legislative session in January to address the problem is not an option:

“Including today’s revenue forecast, each of the past five forecasts has reduced our budget, and in each case we’ve responded quickly and appropriately with the tools at hand and with no tax increases. The November forecast may bring more bad news so we can’t wait until the start of session in January to take action. Today’s forecast demands that we again take action.”

The most important thing the governor and legislators can do is act quickly. However, in a Seattle Times article Gov. Gregoire went on to say she doesn’t want to bring the legislature back into town for at least another two months:

“The governor said she’d want to wait to hold a special session until after the next revenue forecast in November, should the numbers get worse.”

While some delay for the purpose of planning, preparing, and considering the various policy alternatives is inevitable, waiting two months to bring the legislature back to town is unacceptable. The cuts will have to be spread over a shorter period of time.

Fear of November’s forecast shouldn’t keep elected officials from acting. If anything, fear of additional revenue losses should initiate quick and decisive action.

Gregoire has already asked her agencies to prepare for cutbacks of 5 and 10 percent, and these proposals are due back from agencies next week on Thursday the 22nd. In addition, Gregoire has the ability to reopen union contracts with state workers during periods of significant revenue shortfall—just like the period we’re currently in.

Last year, during the one-day special session held in December, the legislature and governor were able to make significant progress whittling down the budget problem. They planned, showed up, and voted on an already agreed to menu of cuts in a process that was virtually free of the political rhetoric we’ve all come to expect. The Seattle Times even titled one of their articles, State Lawmakers Skip Drama, Cut Budget By Millions.

Washington needs its governor and legislators to show up like they did last December—skip the drama, identify essential state services, prioritize the policy alternatives available, and start bailing water out of Washington’s sinking fiscal ship.


[Reprinted from the Freedom Foundation blog; photo credit: studio08denver]

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