Story Summary

2013 State Budget

By law, the governor is required to present a spending plan for the next biennium. Governor Gregoire, governor-elect Jay Inslee and state legislators weigh in on the plan.

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Local News
06/24/13

Close to a budget deal?

Q13 FOX News

CAPITOL photo

 

OLYMPIA — The Legislature adjourned for the day Sunday without reaching a budget agreement, which means that thousands of state workers will begin receiving notifications Monday that they will be temporarily laid off starting July 1 if no deal is reached by then.

The House and Senate, however, plan to resume negotiations Monday.

If lawmakers don’t agree on a budget by the end of June, there will be cutbacks in law enforcement and health services. State parks will close.

Jobs are also on the line, with layoff warning notices set to go out Monday.

The governor’s office put out a contingency plan last week in case the state government closes on July 1. For a complete list of programs and services that will be affected,  click here.

capitolOLYMPIA –  Gov. Jay Inslee’s office released a contingency plan Thursday that outlines the state’s plan of action if lawmakers can’t finalize the budget by the July 1 deadline.

Mary Alice Heuschel, the governor’s chief of staff, said a partial government shutdown is the last resort.

“This is the last thing the governor or any of us would want to happen,” she said. “He is doing everything in his power to help legislators reach an agreement to come to this conclusion as quickly as possible.”

If lawmakers don’t agree on a budget by the end of June, there will be cutbacks in law enforcement and health services.  State parks will close.

Jobs are also on the line, with layoff warning notices set to go out Monday.

For a complete list of programs and services impacted click here.

OLYMPIA — New economic forecasts Tuesday show that lawmakers will have $320 million more to spend over the next two years than they thought, which means the threat of a state government shutdown at the end of the month appears unlikely.

capitol1The added money is expected to break the months-long impasse between the House and Senate that has so far prevented a state budget deal.

“It’s great news,” said state Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, the Senate majority leader. “Certainly I see no reason why we shouldn’t be able to come to an agreement today with that amount of revenue on the table.”

Tom said he hoped lawmakers could be out by the end of the week.

The $320 million in extra money comes from an improving economy, including a better housing market. The figure also includes $90 million in unexpected savings from reduced caseloads, including school enrollment and Medicaid recipients.

In light of Tuesday’s news, Tom said his caucus is now dropping any insistence that the Legislature pass policy reforms, including a controversial workers compensation bill.  He said the House should follow suit and drop its insistence on new taxes after Tuesday’s report.

“If you get $320 million, why do you need any more revenue?” he asked.

House Democrats were much more cautious about the new economic forecast. They stopped short of saying they would abandon their fight for more taxes in a budget deal.

“We look at the problem, not just for this biennium, but for the next two biennia as well,” said state Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. “We have a very, very large problem in adequately funding our education system.”

But the new revenue numbers have taken the urgency out of the Democrats’ plea for more taxes.

“It’s hard for anyone to imagine a solution to that that doesn’t involve new revenue,” said Hunter.  “You’re either going to add it now or you’re going to add it later. This defers that discussion.”

Most expect that Tuesday’s forecast will lead to a quick deal.  The unexpected $320 million seems to be what was needed to break the budget logjam.  A shutdown now seems pretty much out of the question and a formal agreement is expected in the next few days.

olympiaOLYMPIA — A new state revenue forecast showed a projected increase of $231 million Tuesday, a figure that could help bridge the gap in state Legislature budget negotiations.

A report released by the Washington State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council revealed a June revenue forecast for Washington state that shows revenue increasing by more than $230 million compared to the previous forecast in March. The council increased its revenue forecast by nearly $121 million for the next biennium (2013–15) and by about $110 million for the current biennium (2011–13).

The numbers were based on the economy’s continued improvement, council director Steve Lerch said.

The revenue forecast could help the Legislature agree on terms to fix a budget gap, officials said. The Legislature, currently in a second special session, must approve a budget by June 30.

However, the state still faces about a $1 billion shortfall between the cost of current obligations and revenue anticipated in the next biennium.

For more on this story, watch Q13 FOX News Political Analyst C.R. Douglas at 4 and 5 p.m.

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee held a Cabinet meeting Wednesday and instructed all state agencies and departments to begin contingency planning for a possible state government shutdown on July 1.

maryalice

Mary Alice Heuschel, chief of staff to Gov. Jay Inslee, said Wednesday, “We just began a difficult but very necessary process, to prepare for July 1 in case a budget agreement is not reached.”

The agencies were instructed to provide the governor’s office by end of business on Monday, June 17, a list identifying which of their programs could legally continue and which would have to be closed without a new state appropriation when the fiscal year ends June 30.

At the same time, the Legislature started its second special session Wednesday in an attempt to reach a compromise on a state budget. Without a deal and passage of a budget, the state will have no appropriations when the new fiscal year begins July 1.

The state has never before had to shut down the government.

The Democratic-controlled state House wants a budget to include new tax revenue, while the Republican-controlled Senate wants a budget to include deep budget cuts and no new taxes.

After the governor’s Cabinet meeting, Inslee’s chief of staff, Mary Alice Heuschel, told reporters, “We just began a difficult but very necessary process, to prepare for July 1 in case a budget agreement is not reached. (Our) time frame is very quick. We remain hopeful that that (government shutdown) will not become necessary. This is a challenging situation and we hope this does not occur.”

David Schumacher, director of the state Office of Financial Management, told reporters at the briefing that the U.S. Constitution, Washington Constitution and other mandates prevent the cutoff of some services, such as closing the state’s prisons in the Department of Corrections.

“We’re not talking about opening up the prison doors,” he said.

Schumacher added that there are more than 600 state budget accounts. “Over half of those are non-appropriated accounts” and would be able to continue despite a government shutdown, he said.

“This (potential shutdown) only applies to those accounts that need appropriations. We also have a transportation budget (already passed) that will cover large portions of the Department of Licensing, Department of Transportation.”

In a letter sent Wednesday to all agency directors, statewide elected officials, presidents of higher education institutions and state-funded boards and commissions, Schumacher asked that they identify which of their activities could or could not continue without authorized appropriations and to get back June 17.

The governor’s office will then start deciding which services and agencies would need to close on July 1.

“Many important programs and services will cease, absent timely legislative appropriations. Therefore … I am also asking that agencies identify services that are necessary for the immediate response to issues of public safety, or to avoid catastrophic loss of state property,” the letter said.

OLYMPIA — With just seven days to go and the Legislature still in deadlock, Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday seemed to be laying the groundwork for who’s going to get blamed next week if the clock runs out and there’s still no budget deal.

insleeInslee had harsh words for the Republican-dominated state Senate, saying they are an “impediment” to negotiations.

He pointed to their proposal last week that would reduce the estate tax for a number of wealthy Washington families. Inslee said that would put the budget tens of millions of dollars further into the red when he believes lawmakers should be increasing revenue to meet a court mandate to fully fund education.

“At a time when we all should be working together to plug that hole,” Inslee said, “the Senate majority wants to knock another hole in the ship and take on more water.”

Inslee said the move was “shocking” at this stage in the budget negotiations. “Instead of focusing on a million children, we are focusing on 210 multimillion-dollar estates,” he said.

When asked for reaction to the governor’s comments, the Senate Republican leader said the estate tax plan was only a “work in progress.” He, too, expressed frustration about where things stand over the budget negotiations.

“They’re moving, but there not moving as fast as any of us would really like,” said Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville. “We’d all like to be farther along in that process.”

Meetings continue to take place behind closed doors, but, given the tone of the governor, it doesn’t seem likely that they will get done by next Tuesday –when the 30-day special session will expire. He typically makes jokes with reporters, but there was none of that.

Legislators must reach a budget deal by July 1, the start of the new fiscal year, or else there is a good likelihood of a state government shutdown.

SEATTLE — In an exclusive interview Thursday, Gov. Jay Inslee defended his first 100 days in office despite not having pushed a budget through the Legislature.

“I’m not a miracle worker,” Inslee said. “I’m just a good governor. Frankly, these (Democratic and Republican) parties are light year’s apart right now.”

Watch the video to see the entire interview.

OLYMPIA — Governor Jay Inslee said Wednesday he is working hard to get a budget deal before the Legislature adjourns Sunday, but admited a special session is likely in order to get the job done.

Inslee also detailed a list of non-budget items he wants legislators to approve this year, including some controversial things that never made it out of committee this session.

“We have more responsibility to the people of the state than just the budget,” Inslee said.

The governor said he still wants action on several key issues including transportation, helping immigrants, cracking down on drunk driving and gun violence.  Inslee implied he would call lawmakers back to town if there wasn’t action by Sunday.

“I don’t think the legislature or governor should walk away from the responsibility to deal with these known challenges,” he said.  “So far we haven’t accomplished that.”

But it’s the budget that remains the biggest sticking point to leaving on time.

“People have been going down multiple tracks, and now those tracks have got to come together,” Inslee said.

The governor and house Democrats continue to push for more taxes – upwards of $1 billion dollars — to solve the state’s fiscal problems, while the Senate has voted to hold the line on any new revenue.

“It’s different than in the past,” said Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond, the Senate’s chief budget writer.

“You know, two budgets that are this far apart” – his hands spread wide – “as opposed to in the past where the budgets were maybe this far apart,” Hill said with his hands much closer together.

Republicans are also frustrated that that Inslee has been mostly absent from budget negotiations.

“If he chooses not to help us get to a balanced budget, that’s his choice,” said Sen. Linda Parlette, R-Wenatchee. “Our former governor was very helpful in doing that.”

Also in Olympia Wednesday, Tim Eyman filed yet another initiative. The new initiative would push the state legislature to pass a constitutional amendment requiring a two-thirds super-majority to raise taxes.

“Voters have sent this message clearly over the last 20 years,” Eyman said. “They have earned the right for permanent protection.”

If legislators fail to act, the initiative states that any tax increase lawmakers did approved would have to expire after one year. While this new Eyman initiative won’t affect this session, his presence in Olympia today was a reminder about what voters think of tax increases as lawmakers work to come up with a budget deal.

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