With the state facing a $1.1 billion budget deficit right now, Democrats in the Senate released their version of the supplemental operating budget for 2011-13 on Tuesday. Their proposal spends $30.8 billion overall, leaving $369 million in reserves ($104 million unrestricted and $265 million in the rainy day fund). Their 2012 solution is balanced with roughly 70% gimmicks or one-time sources (such as delaying K-12 apportionment payments until next biennium, lowering reserves, assuming appropriations made go unspent, and skipping LEOFF 2 pension payments) and 30% ongoing (as in cuts, redirected revenues and net tax increases).
Senate Republicans have been calling for structural reforms to the way the state operates so it doesn’t find itself in yet another budget crisis, but the majority party has chosen instead to abandon the bipartisan relationships that were developed last year. Given that there are only nine days left for nearly 150 people to read, digest and vote on this budget proposal, I believe the priority of the majority party has clearly been on their own social issues and not on putting a stop to the economic bleeding our state is experiencing.
This budget proposal will not accomplish enough toward that goal. In fact, it will push the problem down the road another year where it could get even bigger. It permanently pushes the K-12 payments in the last school month of the 2013 year into the following biennium. This not only a gimmick that will make next biennium’s budget deficit larger, it also shorts schools that $330 million payment in June 2013 and never makes it up. That’s a $330 million cut to K-12. Finally, this proposal in all likelihood would set us up for yet another significant deficit next biennium. I’ve heard estimates as high as $6 billion.
While I was able to contribute to some of the natural resource-related budget provisos and the majority party took my input into consideration, I cannot vote for a budget that once again kicks the can into another biennium. In fact, I’ve taken to calling this the “hope” budget…as in, “I hope things get better.”