Wednesday, December 16, 2009
2010 is another important election year, and we are going to need all the help that we can get to push President Obama, Congress and Olympia in the right direction. I hope we can count on your help and support.
I am going through our Membership Database, and I'm trying to build our online networks. If you are on any of these websites, please join us!
46-Democrats on Yahoo Groups
I am on many more social networking sites, so if you have one that you would like to see listed, please let me know.
I am focused on what I said that I would do when I ran for Chair in January, 2009. Community, Community, Community. Please help!
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Governor Gregoire released her 2010 supplemental state budget proposal this week and, as required by state law, it was structured around the most current state revenue forecast. As we discussed a couple weeks ago, that forecast predicted a $2.6 billion shortfall in the two-year budget approved last April.
To fill that gap, the Governor proposes eliminating dozens and dozens of state programs and services. Some of the more well-known examples include:
- The Basic Health Plan, which provides 69,000 low-income people with health care and which currently has another 100,000 people on a waiting list for enrollment.
- Levy equalization, which provides nearly $150 million for property-poor school districts
- Early learning for three-year-old children
- Maternity Support Services for low-income women
- State Need Grant to help low-income students attend college
The Governor has stated that the cuts included in the balanced budget she proposed, as required by state law, are unacceptable. I couldn’t agree more.
Choices are pretty limited
In reality, our state budget has very little flexibility to deal with hard economic times. In legislative-speak, it’s the difference between mandated funding and discretionary funding. Mandated funding means just that; the amount we are obligated to pay to certain services and programs, like public education, based on state law and our constitution.
Those obligations amount to about 70% of our total state budget. That leaves only 30% – the “discretionary funds” that pay for everything else. It is only from that small slice of the budget that reductions can be made. This means that without additional funds, $2.6 billion must be cut from about $9 billion in non-mandated funding.
It is our responsibility to respond to this economic crisis
Washington families are wrestling with an economic meltdown that started with the CEOs on Wall Street and is exacerbated by those millionaire moguls who are driven by greed with no consideration for the economic vitality and well being of our country, state, and local communities. While this crisis isn’t our fault, it is our responsibility to respond the best way we can.
Thanks to smart decisions and investments made in the past, Washington state was one of the last to feel the pain of high unemployment and skyrocketing caseloads resulting from the national recession. In fact, Washington state is nationally recognized as a good steward of the public purse strings. Last year, we were one of only a few states given an “A-” by Governing Magazine in its 2008 Government Performance Project.
Last session, we balanced our budget with a combination of federal stimulus aid, $4 billion in cuts to discretionary programs and services, and fund transfers from other state sources. This budget eliminated about 3,000 government jobs, suspended pay raises for all state employees, increased the share of health care costs paid by many workers, and asked agencies to find other ways to cut costs. The priority was preserving the jobs of those who serve our citizens on the front lines—still, deep cuts were made to many programs throughout State government with negative impacts on real people in our communities.
Today, largely because of continuing declines in sales tax revenues and a lagging recovery, we now face this additional shortfall in the second half of our state’s 2009-2011 budget.
Smart recovery doesn’t require sacrificing our values
Good management in the best of times requires even better management—and strong leadership—in the worst of times. Much of my work in the 2010 legislative session will be focused on putting people back to work and protecting services that are critical to the health of our communities. I believe that the Legislature must look at new revenues to support programs that provide critical services to the citizens of Washington State.
We want a smart recovery, and that means job creation today and educational opportunities that will attract the jobs of tomorrow. But a smart recovery also means taking care of our families, the unprecedented number of people who are struggling to find a job, and those who require help caring for themselves. These priorities reflect the core values of our state.
The Governor has proposed a budget that, without any new revenue, means eliminating many of the programs that have provided hope, health and opportunity for thousands of people. Again, the Governor has stated that the cuts included in the balanced budget she was required to propose are unacceptable. And again, I completely agree that these cuts are unacceptable.
Please know that I will be working with my colleagues to evaluate additional cuts and new revenues this session. While some budget reductions will be necessary, it is important that we secure some funding for critical programs such as Apple Health for Kids, Basic Health Plan, long-term care for our elderly, support for people with disabilities and needed investments in K-12 and higher education.
As always, please contact my office with any questions, comments or concerns. Your input is important to me and an integral part of our democracy!