Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Governor should force Legislature's hand on budget

Despite warnings from the Governor that immediate action is needed to balance the budget, Democratic leadership in the Legislature remains uncommitted to a special session when lawmakers are in Olympia next week. After nearly a year of warnings that the budget adopted last session was unsustainable, it appears some lawmakers still haven't found the will to make the necessary decisions. Only the Senate Republican leadership met the Governor's call for budget recommendations to be provided by yesterday to help lay the ground work for a special session . . . READ MORE

Monday, November 29, 2010

Moving to performance-based contracts

Governor Gregoire announced today she will issue an Executive Order requiring agencies to use performance-based contracts when contracting for state services. According to the Governor, the State Auditor's Office will work with agencies to identify best practices and how to design performance-based contracts. This is a great first step toward full contracting reform and could help facilitate additional proactive efforts to tap the experience of the private sector to deliver services . . . READ MORE

Friday, November 19, 2010

Are tax increases on the table?

Considering the overwhelming voter rejection of the tax measures on the ballot this year it seems strange that some still think the Legislature will raise taxes to address the state's budget deficit. Based on the bi-partisan statements of Rep. Ross Hunter (House Finance Chair) and Sen. Joe Zarelli (Ranking Senate Ways and Means member), however, tax increases are not going to be a serious option. Here is the TVW video of their comments on the likelihood of tax increases and what they think will happen on the budget . . . READ MORE

Governor asks unions to play ball

In the category of better late than never Governor Gregoire has finally ordered state union contracts for 2009-11 be reopened to respond to the state's budget deficit. Here is the proclamation she issued last night . . . READ MORE

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Revenue forecast fireworks - special session likely

Today's state revenue forecast was anything but dull. Not only is forecasted revenue for both the current and next budget expected to drop by $1.2 billion but the state's budget director voted against part of the revenue forecast questioning the numbers. With an eye towards the Governor's supplemental budget, which by law is based on the official revenue forecast, Marty Brown, Director of OFM, said the revenue projections for 2009-11 "defies logic." Brown called for the vote to adopt the forecast be split between the numbers for 2009-11 and 2011-13. Brown then was the lone vote against adopting the forecast for the current budget but joined with the rest of the committee in adopting the 2011-13 forecast . . . READ MORE

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Governor suspension of rulemaking a good first step

Today Governor Gregoire issued Executive Order 10-06, which suspends development and adoption of agency rules for the next 12 months. This is a good first step towards alleviating one of the major areas of concern for small businesses as they struggle to survive this economic recession: regulatory overreach. Regulatory reform has been, by-and-large, a little-discussed area of concern for the small business community. Though the small business community and groups like Washington Policy Center have been active in asking for regulatory reform, it gets little play on the public policy stage . . . READ MORE

Gregoire new chair of National Governors Association

When West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin won election to the U.S. Senate this month a vacancy was created at the head of the bi-partisan National Governors Association (NGA). Since the new Chair would also be a Democrat per NGA rules, I had a feeling Governor Gregoire would be in the running. Turns out I should have put some money down on that vibe. NGA announced today that Gregoire was chosen as the organization's new Chair. From NGA's press release . . . READ MORE

Monday, November 15, 2010

Committee considers constitutional pension reforms

The state's Select Committee on Pension Policy will hold a work session tomorrow morning to discuss various constitutional reforms to address the state's nearly $7 billion unfunded pension liability. Among the options to be discussed . . . READ MORE

Thursday, November 11, 2010

TVW previews budget options

I was a guest this week on TVW's Inside Olympia discussing what the election means for the state's budget outlook and the options for lawmakers to balance the budget. Joining me was Marilyn Watkins of the Economic Opportunity Institute. Here is the video of our exchange . . . READ MORE

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Workers' Comp Rates to Increase 12 Percent in 2011

It didn't take very long for the Department of Labor and Industries to calculate 2011's workers' compensation rates. You may remember the imbroglio that ensued after L&I declined to issue its proposed 2011 rates due to the changes that Initiative 1082 may impose (calculating premiums based on employee payroll, as opposed to hours worked). But since I-1082 was defeated last week L&I wasted no time in issuing the verdict: a 12 percent average rate increase. This follows the 2010 rate increase of 7.6 percent . . . READ MORE

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Gregoire considers budget reforms

Last Thursday Governor Gregoire's Committee on Transforming Washington's Budget met with her to discuss various reform options to help restructure state government. In light of voters overwhelming rejection of tax increases as a strategy to close the state's projected multi-billion dollar budget shortfall, the committee's suggestions now have added weight . . . READ MORE

Monday, November 1, 2010

Government liquor monopoly debate extends beyond Washington

Voters in Washington will decide tomorrow the fate of Initiatives 1100 and 1105 and whether to end the state's prohibition-era monopoly on liquor sales. The battle over government liquor monopolies will not end here, however. Active debates are also occurring in the control states of Pennsylvania and Virginia . . . READ MORE