Let’s put Washington back to work
Today marks the beginning of week three in the 2010 legislative session, and things are really moving quickly. We passed our first bill on Wednesday, and I'm very happy to report that it’s a big one, aimed at creating jobs in every corner of our state.
The Jobs Act of 2010, expected to create 38,000 jobs, was approved the same day unemployment numbers in our state grew to 9.5% -- the highest level since 1984. The Seattle Metropolitan unemployment rate is slightly below that at 9.2%. The bill will not only provide good-paying jobs, it will repair our public schools and universities, making them safer, healthier and more energy efficient.
It's an innovative way to create a lot of jobs because most of the work is self-financed. Here's an example of how it works: energy contractors do an audit of an elementary school and estimate how much could be saved in power costs, every year, by replacing old leaky windows, putting in a heat pump instead of a furnace and using better insulation.
Then the money saved on electricity each month is used to finance the work. Contractors are careful and good at this now, because if the savings don't materialize, it's in the contract that they're on the hook to repay the bonds.
Schools and universities like this creative idea, because after the projects are paid off, they get to keep the money saved every month in lower electricity bills. Once these projects are done, taxpayers will save $190 million a year in reduced energy costs.
The Jobs Act passed the House 57-41, and now it's being considered by the Senate, but ultimately you will decide if this is the right thing to do – the JOBS Act, if passed by the Senate, will be on the ballot in November for your consideration.
There are other ideas for creating jobs, and we'll be voting on more bills in the House along with some ideas from Gov. Chris Gregoire.
But the Jobs Act is important because it's one thing we can do to create a lot of jobs for some of the people hit hardest by the global recession: construction workers.
The latest estimate is that 40,000 construction workers are out of a job right now. If you look at the average weekly unemployment check -- $400 dollars -- and multiply that by all those hard hats standing in the unemployment line, it's more than $2 million a day.
I believe we can -- and should -- put those good people back to work. Their paychecks help stimulate our whole economy. Let's have them pick up their hammers, put their hard hats back on and put them to work building us better schools and universities.
Budget cutting process underway
On Friday, the House passed the first budget bill of the session. As you’ve heard, there is a revenue shortfall of about $2.6 billion that must be addressed between now and June 30, 2011.
That number will move up and down as we get new information regarding caseloads and revenue forecasts, but it’s safe to say we have a pretty big problem facing us. After balancing a $9.2 billion shortfall last year, this may seem easy by comparison, but in reality it is much harder.
The early saving bill comes only twelve days into the 2010 session and allows legislators to capture some early savings without waiting to vote on the full supplemental budget, a budget that won't be approved until the final days of session.
The bill makes $46.7 million in savings and extends numerous cost-saving measures approved by the Legislature last session.
The savings include:
- $18.6 million in administrative savings such as not hiring for vacant positions and reducing contract, travel and equipment spending.
- $9.4 million in efficiency savings such as consolidating printing functions in DSHS and expediting nursing home discharges.
- $10 million in service reductions to programs such as the Passport foster care program or Special Commitment Center services.
- $8.7 million in underexpenditures/federal funds including money unspent in the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
The measure now heads to the Senate.
I am interested in hearing any of ideas for savings, efficiencies, and cuts to our state’s budget.