Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Governor releases budget video

Governor Gregoire will be releasing her recommendations to close the state's projected $2.6 billion budget deficit the week of December 7. Giving some insight into her thought process, the Governor and the Director of the state's budget office (Victor Moore) have teamed up to create a short video about the budget situation. Here is a link to that video (Hat tip Niki Reading of TVW). While no new ground was broken in the video, it is disappointing that two words were never mentioned: Government Reform. This is in contrast to the Governor's message last session that government must change the way it operates versus trying to find new revenues to continue the status quo . . . READ MORE

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Harvard economists: Cut taxes to increase growth

While elected officials at the state and federal level debate the need for tax increases and "fiscal stimulus spending," a recent economic study suggests instead taxes and spending should be cut to spur economic growth and reduce deficits. Here is the abstract from an October 2009 study by Harvard economists Alberto Alesina and Silvia Ardagna (Large changes in fiscal policy: taxes versus spending): "We examine the evidence on episodes of large stances in fiscal policy, both in cases of fiscal stimuli and in that of fiscal adjustments in OECD countries from 1970 to 2007. Fiscal stimuli based upon tax cuts are more likely to increase growth than those based upon spending increases. As for fiscal adjustments those based upon spending cuts and no tax increases are more likely to reduce deficits and debt over GDP ratios than those based upon tax increases. In addition, adjustments on the spending side rather than on the tax side are less likely to create recessions. We confirm these results with simple regression analysis . . . READ MORE

Friday, November 20, 2009

Executive branch needs unified voice on education priorities

With Washington already behind the eight ball in the quest for the federal "race to the top funds," the last thing we need is for the state's executive branch to be sending conflicting signals about our commitment to accountability. Unfortunately that is exactly what is happening. Yesterday State Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn announced his plan to delay the state's math and science graduation requirements. According to his press release . . . READ MORE

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Budget deficit grows to $2.6 billion

Washington's budget outlook took another hit today with forecasted revenue dropping $760 million since the September revenue forecast. The result of this is a projected $2.6 billion deficit in the 2009-11 budget adopted earlier this year.  According to the press release issued by the state's economist, Dr. Arun Raha: "While growth has returned to the national and state economies, consumer confidence and more critically, consumer spending remain weak. As a result, we are experiencing a revenue-less recovery." Responding to the news the Governor said in a press release: "I will produce a budget balanced to this revenue projection because I am required to by law. We all know a budget reflects the values of our state. All options must be on the table to produce a budget that works." The Governor, however, has ruled out calling a special session of the Legislature . . . READ MORE

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Governor to Commerce Director: "This is not acceptable"

Attendees at this morning's GMAP session were witness to a visibly disappointed Governor expressing her displeasure with an agency's lack of performance. The focus of the meeting was the state's use of the federal stimulus funds. One of the activities highlighted was Commerce's weatherization program. Commerce Director Rogers Weed opened his presentation by asking the Governor to lower the target for the number of housing units to be weatherized since it would be unlikely for Commerce to meet the current goal. Weed indicated the problem was caused by questions concerning prevailing wage requirements and how much workers should be paid for the weatherization projects. The original goal for the 2nd quarter was to weatherize 935 units. Commerce's actual production was 107 units. Responding to this the Governor said she was absolutely disappointed with how many fingers were being pointed and the bureaucracy getting clogged up . . . READ MORE

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Governor willing to wait on budget fix

Governor Gregoire will not call a special session of the Legislature despite a budget deficit likely to exceed $2 billion after Thursday's state revenue forecast. Sen. Joe Zarelli (R-18), ranking member on the Senate Ways and Means Committee, has been calling for a special session for months. Zarelli issued this statement in a press release last week . . . READ MORE

Thursday, November 12, 2009

State Supreme Court issues school funding decision

In a landmark ruling today, Washington’s Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the legislature’s method of funding public schools is constitutional under the “ample provision” requirement of the state constitution. The Court concluded: "The legislature’s use of the staff unit allocation system to fund education with differing salary allocations to school districts with historically disparate average salaries does not violate article IX, section 2, although there remains a slight gap between the highest and lowest salary funding statewide. There is no showing that the legislature’s funding allocations, including those for Federal Way School District, do not constitute 'ample provision for the education of all children' as required under article IX, section 1. The legislature has acted well within its constitutional authority and its duty to make ample provision for the education of children and to provide for a general and uniform system of education under article IX. The individual respondents’ claims do not meet requirements for justiciability and should be dismissed . . . READ MORE

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Small Business Owners Offer Solutions to Improve Business Climate

Small business owners, legislators, and policymakers from all over Washington gathered in SeaTac yesterday to discuss the state’s business climate at Washington Policy Center’s 2009 Small Business Conference. During several interactive issue breakout sessions, business owners suggested and discussed solutions to improve the climate for small businesses in Washington. This was the fourth statewide small business conference hosted by WPC since 2003. The result is a list of priority solutions, selected by small business owners, for solving the major problems with the state's business climate.  The top recommendations from each breakout session are . . . READ MORE

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

OFM releases 2009 report on state boards and commissions

The Office of Financial Management (OFM) has published its 2009 Boards and Commissions Report. According to OFM: "The 2009 BOARDS AND COMMISSIONS REPORT provides basic information about boards, commissions, and committees in state government. State law requires the report to assist in promoting legislative and executive oversight of these organizations. This is the sixteenth biennial edition of the publication. The information in this report covers the period from July 1, 2007, through June 30, 2009. During the 2009 Legislative Session a number of boards were eliminated or consolidated by executive order or legislation. A list of those boards is attached and, if the board submitted a report for this period, a note is also included on that report . . .  In 2009, 449 boards, commissions, councils, committees, and similar groups in state government provided information for this report . . . READ MORE

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Election week begins

For most voters across the nation today is Election Day. In Washington State, however, today marks the beginning of election week(s) and the possibility for some close races, election month. In most states mail-in ballots must either be received by Election Day or must be dropped off before the polls close. Washington, however, only requires that a ballot be postmarked by Election Day. This policy unnecessarily complicates the tabulation of votes and can leave the results of close races a mystery for weeks. With the state's ongoing move to close all poll locations, it is time to require all ballots be received on Election Day. This is exactly what Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Wyoming require. North Carolina goes a step further requiring absentee ballots to be returned by 5 p.m. the day before the election. Secretary of State Sam Reed supports requiring mail in ballots to be turned in by Election Day . . . READ MORE

Monday, November 2, 2009

State Auditor's Office reviews its performance measures

The State Auditor's Office (SAO) acts as the eyes of citizens to help ensure state and local governments are operating in an accountable, transparent and effective manner. To help lead by example, staff at SAO met last week to focus on strategic planning and performance measures planning session for the agency. I had the opportunity to sit in on the sessions and was very impressed with the direction SAO is heading. Earlier this year the Office of Financial Management (OFM) issued an assessment of the performance measures SAO was using for its activities . . . READ MORE