Tag: Washington state legislature (Page 1 of 4)

OPINION | (Not) A time for dithering: Inslee’s failure to lead on transparency would be a significant political moment

The legislature made a very bad decision last week when 83 members of the House and 47 members of the Senate voted to pass ESB 6617, a bill that would reject a court’s ruling that the legislature is subject to state law requiring government agencies to allow public access to their records.

ESB 6617 was rammed through at high-speed and with a spirit of unity that we don’t often see in Olympia. But even as lawmakers were high-fiving in the wings, a critical response came booming from every corner of the media.

Notwithstanding some very odd attempts to defend the bill, including a meandering and somewhat incoherent explanation by newly minted state Senator Manka Dhingra of the 45th legislative district, outrage over the legislature’s attempt to maintain a tight grip on public records continued to build.

The 12 largest daily newspapers across the state have each published front-page editorials condemning the legislature’s bill and urging (or, in many cases, demanding) that Inslee veto the measure. Television and radio news hosts have aired commentaries and asked viewers to call the governor’s office.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson, the state’s top legal authority, told the Seattle Times in plain language that Inslee should send the entire bill back to the House and Senate.

And former attorney general Rob McKenna on his blog also issued a harsh rebuke to the legislature for a process that “was improper and showed contempt, unintentionally or not.”

And then there are the voices who really do speak loudest—those of the people. As of Thursday afternoon, Inslee’s office reported that it had received nearly 17,000 calls, emails, on the subject most of which asked for a veto.

Nevertheless, as of Thursday afternoon, voters are still waiting for Inslee to step out and inform the public of what action he will take, if any.

To veto, he would humbly admit that a statement he gave to MSNBC’s Chris Hayes that he has no authority to act was wrong.

If Inslee hesitates and allows the bill to become law, then his answer to Hayes that he “can’t [veto], unfortunately, because they have a veto-proof majority, unfortunately, so I don’t have control at this moment” will come back to haunt him when he runs for his next office because it hints at an unwillingness to lead.

It will haunt him first because he is wrong and because perpetuating the misleading idea of a “veto-proof majority” under which the governor has no power will be remembered as a dodge – a vain effort to avoid having to lead. We know it’s a dodge because, as others have noted, these terrifyingly impenetrable veto-proof majorities in the past didn’t stopped Inslee when the cause is something he truly cares about.

When last year Inslee deleted business and occupation tax relief out of a budget that had been negotiated by the legislature – passed by a so-called veto-proof majority – Inslee felt the courage surging through his veins. But on the issue of open and transparent government he publicly frets but has no muscle in right hand to perform the simple task of scribbling his name on the veto line and saying to the lawmakers, “No, this is bad law. Do it again.”

That’s why it probably won’t be the need to support the principle of open government that convinces Inslee to veto. It will be his own political ambitions that pull him over the line.

We hear that Inslee wants to be president someday. Presidential voters are known to vote without reason sometimes, cleaving to a candidate because of a connection made in moments that offer insight into the candidate’s character. This is Inslee’s moment and he is dawdling, dodging, and dithering it away.

But there is still time. He has until midnight Thursday to make up his mind.

OPINION | Gov. Inslee must veto Legislature’s effort to thwart public access to lawmaker’s records

American physicist and co-father of the atomic bomb Edward Teller said, “Secrecy, once accepted, becomes an addiction.”

Late last week, in a secretive and soul-crushingly bipartisan process, lawmakers in Olympia conspired to prove Teller right.

Washington state legislators this session needed to deal with a Superior Court judge’s decision in a lawsuit brought last year by several media organizations and others that ruled that lawmaker’s records are not exempted from state public records laws. The mandate for lawmakers was to create a system for providing the public the same transparency as all other state and local government agencies are legally required to provide. They chose to do the opposite. Instead of embracing the liberating power of sunlight, the vast majority of lawmakers passed a bill that would consolidate firm authority over their own records: Senate Bill 6177.

The process used to ram through SB 6177 matched the cloistered and cynical spirit of the measure. It was introduced in the Senate on Wednesday and without a hearing or open debate was voted on in both the Senate and House on Thursday.

The roll call in the Senate was 47 yea, 7 nay, and one member was absent. Almost immediately the House held its vote and the margin was nearly identical – 83 yeas, 14 nays with one member excused from voting. The roll calls are posted after this article.

SB 6177 is the assurance of a pack of wolves to a flock of sheep that a wolf committee will guarantee that all sheep-related requests will receive action… except the ones they deem in conflict with wolf survival.

Although technically complying with the court’s ruling, SB 6177 would establish a system under which old records would be off-limits from the public and new ones would only be disclosed after the legislature itself decides on whether they can be released. Those decisions would not be subject to judicial review if SB 6177 becomes law. It is the quintessential case of politicians trying to make a promise to the public with their fingers are crossed permanently behind their backs.

SB 6177 is the assurance of a pack of wolves to a flock of sheep that a wolf committee will guarantee that all sheep-related requests will receive action… except the ones they deem in conflict with wolf survival. Sheep, shepherds, and watchdogs alike should rest easy. Right? No, of course, all non-wolves should be on alert.

Our lawmakers must understand that their legitimacy for doing all of this fancy government stuff stems from informed consent; fully informed consent can’t be given without more public knowledge of the process and the players involved in creating laws and public policy.

The people have a fundamental right to judge whether their interests are being served by their elected representatives. In fact, we should take this opportunity to collectively downvote the supposed and oft-quoted wisdom of 19th century German statesman Otto Von Bismarck that lawmaking and sausage-making are activities best not seen too intimately by the public. Not only does it make good sense to put an asterisk beside Bismarck’s thoughts as they might not emanate from the American school of democratic thought – his own political career was perpetuated less by electoral consent than by a series of appointments to successively higher offices – but it’s also a matter of precaution. As consumers of Olympia brand sausage, we can learn to stomach some of the grist and gristle as a necessary step toward getting rid of some of the tainted meat and rodent hair.

SB 6177 now sits on Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk waiting to either be signed (or not signed) into law – only a veto by the governor can give lawmakers a mulligan to reconsider their decision.

Roll Calls of Each Legislative Body on ESB 6617

Washington State Senate

Washington State House of Representatives

[Featured image: jfergusonphotos]

Sunshine Week Legislative Update

This Sunshine Week forecast is brought to you by the 2014 Legislative Session: Your right to know is partly cloudy. When the just concluded session began there was the opportunity for brilliant sunshine but at least we avoided any severe secret storm warnings.

Below is a look back on some of the open government actions (or lack thereof) during the 2014 Legislative Session.

Public notice

Are you a night owl that can show up at a moment’s notice? If yes, then this 10:45 p.m. public hearing was for you.

Are your speed reading skills as good as lawmakers? If not, then this update from the last day of session by the Spokesman Review may be alarming:

“The budget is scheduled to be put to a vote in the House late this afternoon and be sent to the Senate for a vote later in the evening. That means the Legislature will suspend several rules that allow time for the public to see legislation, and for members to read and consider it.”

Do you live hours away from Olympia but still have the desire to participate in the legislative debate? If yes, better luck next year (Note: Interest remains strong though for remote testimony options).

  • HB 2369/SB 6560 (Increasing legislative transparency by providing mandatory notice and waiting periods before legislative action, banning title-only bills, and opening all legislative committees to the public) – No public hearings

Do you receive most of your information online? If yes, you’ll be happy about this development.

  • HB 2105 (Promoting transparency in government by requiring public agencies with governing bodies to post their agendas online in advance of meetings) – Approved by Legislature

Executive Privilege

Are you a Governor that can’t find an exemption to deny a public record? Rest easy, the Legislature didn’t act to keep you from claiming Executive Privilege (Note: Governor Inslee has promised not to claim during his term).

  • HJR 4217 (Amending the Constitution regarding the people’s right of access to information concerning the conduct of the people’s business) – No public hearing
  • SJR 8214 (Amending the state Constitution to state that the Governor is subject to public records requests) – Failed committee executive action

Open government training

Good news if you believe:

“The people of this state do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created. (RCW 42.30.010)”

Although lawmakers were exempted, the Legislature did pass the Attorney General’s request bill requiring public officials receive training on the state’s open government and public records laws.

  • SB 5964 (Concerning training public officials and employees regarding public records, records management, and open public meetings requirements) – Approved by Legislature

Open data

Do you think public information should be made proactively available in a format that allows you to create your own reports? If yes, keep an eye on this debate next year.

  • HB 2202 (Concerning the establishment of an open data policy to facilitate sharing and publication of government data) – Didn’t clear Rules Committee

TVW

Is one of your favorite internet bookmarks TVW? If yes, you may need to get use to seeing a black screen when you click on it. Official statement from TVW on failure to receive funding for needed equipment upgrades:

“We remain committed to providing citizens with as much access to the legislative process and state government as we can given the circumstances.  We have a triage plan in place so that, as we experience further equipment failures, TVW will try to keep fully functional those hearing rooms on the Capitol Campus that are utilized most. And we will also continue working with OFM and lawmakers to get the project funded.”

Depending on what develops with TVW, this Sunshine Week’s partly cloudy forecast could be downgraded to a severe weather warning. For now though we can hope that lawmakers and candidates will brush up on ways to improve the people’s right to know and the forecast for next year’s Sunshine Week.

 

[Republished with permission from the Washington Policy Center blog]
[Featured image used under standard license, depositphotos.com]

Time for Legislature to Live by Open Government Rules

With policy cutoff behind us the list of living and walking dead bills (nothing is really dead till sine die) is being compiled. Among the proposals that didn’t even receive a hearing, however, is a bill based on WPC’s recommendation for the Legislature to truly provide Washingtonians the opportunity to participate in the legislative debate while also ensuring lawmakers live by the same open government rules the rest of the state’s public officials operate under.

As noted by Peter Callaghan of The Tacoma News Tribune:

“Lots of stuff gets introduced in the Washington Legislature that is never heard from again.

Most of the time, that’s OK. But one bill that should have at least gotten some discussion was House Bill 2369. The measure would have imposed on the Legislature the same transparency requirements that local governments and state administrative bodies already face.

The House and Senate would have to follow basic notice and waiting periods before acting on legislation, for example, under HB 2369 and a Senate version filed Friday. The bills also would require that all legislative committees be open to the public.

The Legislature regularly ignores or suspends its notice rules. It also often denies public access to significant committee action by recessing for ‘committee caucuses.’ The members divide by party and meet privately to discuss bills and count heads.

Local government councils and state agency boards can meet in secret under the state open public meetings law but only for specific reasons expressed in that law. Secret ballots — even straw polls — are illegal, and governing bodies must conduct all ‘deliberations, discussions, considerations, reviews, evaluations and final actions’ in public.”

A Senate companion to HB 2369 was introduced in response to the light speed vote on the “DREAM/Real Hope Act.” In her press release announcing SB 6560, Sen. Janéa Holmquist Newbry said:

“’To pass a bill on the Friday before the Super Bowl, with less than twenty-four hours’ notice, goes against everything I stand for when it comes to giving citizens a voice and encouraging their participation in the legislative process,’ said Holmquist Newbry. ‘The public was kept in the dark. That is not acceptable and shouldn’t be what accountable, transparent government is all about.’”

HB 2369 wasn’t the only bill that would have required more legislative transparency to receive no public hearing. Lawmakers also couldn’t find time to hear from the public on HJR 4217: Amending the Constitution regarding the people’s right of access to information concerning the conduct of the people’s business.

Writing about HJR 4217 prior to cutoff The Olympian said:

“A similar proposed constitutional amendment in the House (HJR 4217) would also make clear there is no legislative privilege to secrecy. HJR 4217, however, has yet to be scheduled for a public hearing.

The Legislature should send one of these historical and national precedent-setting joint resolutions to voters. We expect either would easily win voters’ approval.

They are vitally important measures for two reasons.

First, the constitutional amendments would establish the principle that a truly open and transparent government starts at the top. Second, either would erase any justification from lawmakers not to apply the Public Records Act to the Legislature itself.

In a thorough review of the state’s Public Records Act by the non-partisan William D. Ruckelshaus Center at Washington State University it questioned the legislative exemption. Why is the state Legislature excused from disclosure requirements that apply to city councils, school boards, fire commissioners and state agencies?

During a media forum at the beginning of the current session legislative leaders expressed willingness to discuss whether it was time for lawmakers to subject themselves to the state’s open government laws. The time for action is now.”

Along with giving these open government reforms more serious consideration next session, hopefully lawmakers will also continue to explore opportunities for remote testimony options for citizens.

One silver lining this session is the new Open Government Caucus. The goal of the members is to discuss opportunities to improve open government and transparency. Of particular note at the first meeting of the caucus on February 3 was this statement from Rep. Mark Hargrove on the need for the Legislature to open all of its meetings up to the public.

[Reprinted with permission from the Washington Policy Center blog; featured image used under standard license, DepositPhotos.com]

Opening the Doors to Olympia with Remote Testimony | Op-Ed

By the end of the 2013 Legislative Session, Washington state lawmakers had introduced two 400-page budgets and held public hearings on them with just a few hours’ notice. Unless you were the most accomplished speed reader in the world and were already sitting in Olympia, you had no chance to say anything meaningful at a public hearing before both budgets were voted on and passed in their respective houses.

For people who live outside of the Puget Sound area, the message appears to be: Your voice and opinions are not needed. It doesn’t have to be this way.

On paper, the state of Washington has some of the best legislative transparency rules in the country — if lawmakers would only use them. Often, however, the rules are quietly set aside.

The disregard for public participation has led some legislators to cry foul. State Democratic Sen. Karen Fraser recently said she feels “sorry for people [in Eastern Washington]” who are given so little opportunity to participate.

There is an easy solution — technology. Since 2011, Washington Policy Center has held regular legislative Wake-Up Call forums throughout the state, connecting legislators via video conference to communities in Eastern Washington. Dozens of legislators and more than 1,000 citizens have participated, coming face to face — or screen to screen — with lawmakers.

The State Legislature should learn from these events and from other states and let citizens participate in the legislative process via remote connection.

Allowing the public to give lawmakers remote testimony at fixed locations around the state is not a partisan issue. It is a fairness issue. It would give citizens another opportunity to be part of the lawmaking process. And the idea has bipartisan support.

Allowing remote testimony would also help Washingtonians overcome anything Mother Nature may throw our way during the winter months that the legislature is in session, sometimes cutting off much of the state behind a wall of snow.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, several states already provide remote testimony options for citizens.

Nevada’s capitol, Carson City, is hundreds of miles away from the state’s main population center, Las Vegas. The Nevada Legislature therefore allows citizens in Las Vegas and across the state the chance to participate via teleconference.

Not only does this technology allow citizens from across Nevada to connect with their lawmakers, it also has the capability to bring in expert testimony from across the country and around the world to help inform the legislative debate. Washington Policy Center experts recently testified before the Nevada Legislature comfortably and economically from our office in Olympia via teleconference.

In Alaska, where the capitol is geographically set apart from much of the state’s main population area, citizens almost always testify via remote location.

If the legislature truly wishes to hear from all of our state’s citizens, it needs to give those citizens the opportunity to be a part of the process while enacting meaningful transparency reforms.

We stand ready to help lawmakers learn from our example with the legislative Wake-Up Call forums to help make remote testimony for citizens a reality in Washington. This would truly allow us to be one state when it comes to citizen participation in the lawmaking process. The good news is, several lawmakers have already expressed interest in moving this reform forward.

You Know What’s in the Pending 2013-15 Budget, Right?

With a 2013-15 budget deal “imminent” one of the remaining questions left to be answered is whether lawmakers and the public will be provided adequate time to review the details before a vote on final passage occurs. We believe at a minimum the time provided for budget transparency should be at least 24 hrs.

Based on his comments during yesterday’s press conference, however, Governor Inslee seems to believe the public already knows what’s going to be in the final $33 billion plus budget running hundreds of pages long: (Click here for video)

Hopefully the Governor is right and there won’t be any “mysteries” to discover after the budget is approved. It’s not like provisos not previously part of prior budget proposals have shown up before in a conference committee report, right?

 

[Reposted with permission from the Washington Policy Center blog; featured image by iStockphoto.com, credit: Wahaooo]

State May Want to Keep Those Death Tax Refunds on Hand

iStock_000014958884SmallLawmakers may have thought they dodged a bullet last week when passing a retroactive death tax “fix” to a state Supreme Court ruling which would have required refunds but with additional litigation pending due to the retroactive nature of the tax increase the state may still end up paying those court ordered refunds.

Here is the Washington State Bar Association’s testimony about such retroactive tax increases likely being unconstitutional.

While saying we don’t want to be like the other Washington (D.C.), policy makers appear to have taken a page out of the Congressional playbook by utilizing retroactive tax policy. But even for Congress (which is no stranger to retroactive taxes) making retroactive tax changes apply longer than during the current fiscal year is tempting fate.

Here is the advice of the Congressional Research Service in its 2012 publication “Constitutionality of Retroactive Tax Legislation” (emphasis added):

“Period of Retroactivity – The most common potential concern with respect to substantive due process is the length of the retroactivity. The Supreme Court has made clear that a modest retroactive application of tax laws is permissible, describing it as a ‘customary congressional practice’ required by ‘the practicalities of producing national legislation.’ As a result, tax legislation that is retroactive to the beginning of the year of enactment has routinely been upheld against due process challenges. There does not seem to be any serious question as to whether such a period of retroactivity is constitutional.

What then happens with periods of application that go beyond the year of enactment? The Court has upheld several tax laws where the period of retroactivity extended into the preceding calendar year. For example, in United States v. Carlton, the Court upheld the retroactive application of a federal estate tax provision that limited the availability of a recently added deduction for the proceeds of sales of stock to employee stock ownership plans. The deduction was added by the Tax Reform Act of 1986, which had not included a requirement that the taxpayer own the stock immediately prior to death. The lack of such a requirement essentially created a loophole that Congress fixed with the 1987 amendment. The Tax Reform Act of 1986 was enacted in October 1986, and the amendment was enacted in December 1987, to apply as if incorporated in the 1986 law. In upholding the 1987 law, the Court explained that the period of retroactivity was permissible since it was only slightly more than one year, as well as noting that the IRS had announced its concern with the original law as early as January 1987 and a bill to make the correction was introduced in Congress the very next month.

However, it does appear that due process concerns may be raised by a more extended period of retroactivity. In Nichols v. Coolidge (one of the few cases where the Supreme Court struck down a retroactive tax on due process grounds), the Court disallowed the retroactive application of an estate tax provision that changed the tax treatment of a transfer 12 years after the transfer had occurred. The Court later unfavorably compared the 12-year period with periods where the ‘retroactive effect is limited.’ This suggests that due process concerns are raised by an extended period of retroactivity. However, it is not clear how long a period might be constitutionally problematic. The Court has recognized retroactive liability for periods beyond one or two years in non-taxation contexts, but it is not clear how a similar situation arising under the tax laws would be addressed.”

It’s a bit ominous that the one example the Congressional Research Service gave of the courts striking a retroactive tax increase was for a change to the treatment of an estate transfer years after it happened – very similar to what our lawmakers just did by making their death tax change retroactive to deaths back to 2005.

As time goes on and this issue works its way through the courts lawmakers may come to realize the better course of action would have been to make prospective changes to the state’s death tax law rather than empower the hands of the taxman to reach back in time.

 

[Reposted with permission from the Washington Policy Center blog; image used under standard license, credit: esolla via iStockphoto.com]

Dim Tweeter of the Morning: State Rep. Marko Liias’ Ever-Shifting Views on Bipartanism

On the final day of the Washington state Legislature’s first special session Tuesday, State Rep. Marko Liias (D-Bothell) was a pervasive presence on Twitter, repeatedly calling the work done this year by the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus – a gathering of 2 maverick Democrats and 23 Republicans – “Tea Party politics.”

But on Thursday, a two vote cross-over to his position equals “bipartisanship,” a double standard that should cause some to wonder if Liias’ litmus test for legitimate compromise begins and ends with total agreement to his point of view.

Liias’ end-of-session bomb-throwing harmonized with Gov. Jay Inslee’s suggestion that the Senate majority had put an “ideological wish list” ahead of real leadership. The vitriol caught the attention of Washington State Republican Party Communications Director Keith Schipper, who called the lawmaker on his bombastic tone.

 

Today, an unnecessary two-vote crossover by House Republican state Reps. Gary Alexander (R-Olympia) and Chad Magendanz (R-Issaquah) on the latest estate tax measure gets a condescending atta boy from Liias.

 

What didn’t Liias tweet about? The lone defector from Democratic ranks – state Rep. Monica Stonier (D-Vancouver).

Stonier was the only Democrat to vote against the estate tax measure, adding to a long list of occasions in her freshman session that she has been set free by party leaders to vote against her caucus.

One has to presume that Stonier – an attractive and fairly well-spoken minority female – is being protected for a potential run at higher office, maybe even a statewide or federal position.

It seems that when it comes to real-world electoral politics, even Democratic partisans recognize the having a record of supporting the regulatory overreaches and tax and spend policies that have been promoted by Democrats in the state Legislature.

Budgeteers in Olympia Must Steer Clear of Harmful B&O Tax Hikes | Op-Ed

As the special session continues in Olympia, there appears to be little progress in working out a budget. The House and Senate chambers have passed their own versions, but there doesn’t seem to be any progress in coming up with a budget both can agree on. The bipartisan majority in the Senate passed a responsible budget, one that doesn’t raise taxes, provides for adequate reserves, and increases K-12 spending while living within the State’s expected revenues.

The budget passed by the House, however, is not satisfied with $2 billion more in revenue expected in the upcoming budget cycle. It turns to increasing taxes, mainly on businesses, by almost $1 billion more in order to increase state spending by 10%. The bulk of these tax increases – $534 million – come from the Business & Occupation tax on service businesses. A temporary rate increase was passed in 2010, but despite assurances at the time that the surcharge would not be made permanent, that is precisely what is proposed now.

The B&O tax is especially unjust, since it is a fixed portion of gross sales, not profits. The same tax is collected whether the business makes a profit or loses money. The businesses affected by this B&O tax are not rich mega-corporations, they are 144,000 mostly small businesses providing a wide variety of services. This group includes not just your doctor, lawyer and accountant, but your child care center, the beauty salon, the dry cleaner, technical/trade schools and a host of other personal care services. These are businesses already suffering in the recession, working hard to survive. Making permanent a 20% increase in B&O taxes is just another hit to the bottom line that they can ill afford right now.

Some in Olympia argue that this revenue is desperately needed, that it isn’t unfair to target only service businesses, and that it really isn’t a tax increase because it only makes permanent a temporary tax. One thing is certain: at a time when businesses in Washington are struggling in a slow/no growth economy this B&O tax will take $534 million out of the private sector. Growing state spending by 10%, while draining the private sector that supports it is a recipe for disaster.

With the unfortunate passing of state Sen. Mike Carrell, the bipartisan majority in the Senate has temporarily lost their one-vote margin, leaving a real possibility that the House budget might be passed through the Senate before his replacement can be seated. Such a move would be a disaster for cooperation in Olympia, and worse for Washington State’s economy.

We need to contact our Representatives and Senators in Olympia and ask them to support a responsible budget that keeps our commitment to education and other vital services while still living within our means. We don’t need to burden Washington’s small businesses, the job creators, with more taxes.

 

[featured image licensed via depositphotos.com, creadit: robeo123]

Five Items Lawmakers Should Include in the 2013-15 budget

Governor Inslee has called a 30-day Special Session to begin on May 13th so that lawmakers can complete their unfinished work on the 2013-15 state budget. One of the major sticking points in ongoing budget negotiations is the House’s controversial decision to propose more than $1 billion in job killing tax increases. This despite an estimated $2 billion increase in forecasted revenue growth, voters’ 64% statewide approval for the fifth time of the requirement for tax increases to receive a 2/3 vote, and Governor Inslee’s campaign promise that he would not seek tax increases. With that in mind, here are five things lawmakers should focus on as they work to finish the budget:

  1. Keep the promise that “temporary” taxes will be temporary. Lawmakers promised taxpayers in 2010 that several “temporary” tax increases they enacted would expire on June 30, 2013. Business owners across the state have built this into their financial planning and expect our political leaders to keep their word.  Though Governor Inslee has sought to redefine the definition of “tax increase” to exclude breaking the promise of allowing temporary tax increases to expire, at a minimum making “temporary” taxes permanent breaks faith with Washingtonians and should be avoided.
  2. Listen to the clear will of voters on taxes. On five separate occasions over the past 20 years the people of Washington have consistently said they want lawmakers to agree on a broad-based bipartisan supermajority vote to raise taxes, or they should send proposed tax increases to the voters for approval. Regardless of the Supreme Court’s action striking down that restriction, the Legislature should at a minimum refer any tax increases that can’t secure a supermajority vote to the people for approval.
  3. Avoid budget gimmicks. To avoid the possibility of further action needed to re-balance the budget in the near future and to protect the state’s credit rating, lawmakers should avoid relying on budget moves like dedicated fund raids, agency reversions, and a small unrestricted ending fund balance. The focus should be on aligning ongoing increases in state spending with ongoing increases in forecasted tax revenue.
  4. Save the protected emergency reserve for a true budget emergency. Voters wisely created a constitutionally protected emergency budget reserve in 2007 because lawmakers were unable to restrain themselves from using it for non-emergency spending. With more than $2 billion in forecasted revenue growth and a still-tentative economy, now is not the time to raid the state’s small emergency reserve fund. Leave the emergency reserve for a true emergency.
  5. Adopt a performance-based budget that really balances over four years. The 2013-15 state budget is the first one that is subject to the state’s new four-year balanced budget requirement. Past budgets projected shortfalls the day after the regular two-year budget period ended.  Along with linking spending to real performance outcomes (as several provisos in the House and Senate budgets currently do), lawmakers should ensure the final 2013-15 budget has a “clean” balance sheet with no gimmicks, defensible revenue assumptions and enough reserves to be truly in balance for four-years.

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