Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Title only bills dropped to circumvent spirit of state Constitution

Today is the last day under Article 2, Section 36 of the state Constitution for new bills to be introduced unless two-thirds of lawmakers vote to hear the bill. To circumvent this constitutional restriction on new bills being introduced with less than 10 days to go in session, several title only bills were dropped today including three that relate to increasing taxes . . . READ MORE

Senate Democrat budget does not resolve structural spending problems

All you need to know about today's Senate Democrat budget was the statement by Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown acknowledging that the underlying structural problem in the budget is not addressed by their budget proposal. This means that if adopted, lawmakers and citizens will have the privilege of going through the budget deficit song and dance yet again for the foreseeable future. Here is a summary of what Senate Democrats propose . . . READ MORE

Monday, February 27, 2012

Legislature needs to put 'public' back into public hearings

DO lawmakers in Olympia really want to hear from citizens on the bills they are considering, or are they more interested in catering to the needs of lobbyists and special interests? Although Washington's lawmakers have adopted rules that appear to provide the public an opportunity to participate in the legislative debate, the casual way they routinely waive these rules shows they are often more responsive to lobbyists . . . READ MORE

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

House Democrat budget relies on $405 million gimmick

The prospects of avoiding a 2012 Special Session to balance the budget will likely hinge on the Senate's appetite for budget gimmicks or the House's willingness to back down from its proposal to kick $405 million of K-12 school payments down the road into the next budget. Unlike their Republican counterpart's budget proposal, House Democrats today released a plan that pencils out in the short-term because an "Accounting gimmick is biggest part of state House budget moves" as noted by the Seattle Times . . . READ MORE

Friday, February 17, 2012

House GOP releases budget proposal

Budget writers for the House Republicans released the first legislative budget proposal of the 2012 Session today (Day 40). Though a copy of the actual budget bill is not available yet here are some of the details according to a GOP release . . . READ MORE

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Odds of on-time session improve

For the first time since lawmakers adjourned the "budget balancing" special session last December without actually balancing the budget, there is a glimmer of hope that they'll be able to get the job done during the remaining 21 days of the 2012 Regular Session. This new found optimism is due to the news this week that the state caseload forecast is expected to drop costs by $340 million due to reforms enacted last year and today's news of a $96 million increase in the revenue forecast . . . READ MORE

Friday, February 10, 2012

Is the House considering "felony" budget gimmicks to balance the budget?

It's been 107 days since the Governor called last December's special session declaring "timely legislative action is needed to secure the State’s fiscal health and address the shortfall in the 2011-2013 operating budget." We are now in day 33 of the 60 day 2012 REGULAR Session without a budget plan being introduced let alone debated. Defending the lack of action on the budget to date lawmakers have said that they need to wait until after next week's revenue forecast to know what the parameters of the budget will be. Hopefully none of the options actually considered will include "felony" budget gimmicks such as borrowing to balance the budget. According to the Washington State Wire, however . . . READ MORE

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A tax simplification bill made confusing

Yesterday the Senate Way & Means Committee found out first-hand why it’s a bad idea to add a new a bill to the committee agenda on just two hours notice, and not make copies of the bill available until an hour before the meeting starts . . . READ MORE

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Six-year balanced budget and outlook requirements move to floor votes

The House and Senate Ways and Means Committee have advanced two bills to help policy makers focus on the long-term impact of budget decisions. The House Ways and Means Committee advanced HB 2607: Requiring a six-year budget outlook tied to existing revenues. The Committee adopted an amendment reflecting the recommendation from my testimony that the budget outlook should be updated quarterly after the adoption of the state's official revenue forecast . . . READ MORE

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

1 minute to testify on changes to the public records act

Does the Legislature really want to hear from citizens on changes to the landmark public records act voters adopted in 1972? Based on the treatment of SB 6576 (Allowing school districts to charge for the reasonable costs of responding to public records requests) one is left to wonder. Not only was SB 6576 directly referred to the Senate Ways and Means Committee, bypassing policy committees when it was introduced on February 1, but so the called public hearing on the bill was dubious at best . . . READ MORE

Thursday, February 2, 2012

$1.50 Oil Barrel Tax probably dead

Is the Governor’s proposed oil barrel tax dead? Senator Mary Margaret Haugen, Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee thinks it is. During her remarks this morning at the Washington State Good Roads and Transportation Association in Olympia, Sen. Haugen bucked most in her party who think the charge is a fee and said she believes it is actually a tax. She also said it will be challenged on the floor and based on Lt. Governor Brad Owen’s past rulings on tax vs. fee issues, he will likely also rule the $1.50 charge is a tax . . . READ MORE

Six-year budget outlook requirement heard in the House

The House Ways and Means Committee heard public testimony yesterday on HB 2607: Requiring a six-year budget outlook tied to existing revenues. Regularly publishing a multi-year budget outlook is one of the many recommendations in WPC's Policy Guide for Washington State. One of the most recognizable measurements of the state’s fiscal health is the multi-year budget outlooks. These updates, however, are not done on a regular basis. This is why the many bipartisan sponsors of HB 2607 hope to require regular six-year budget outlooks to be published . . . READ MORE