Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Greetings, from snowy, wet, slushy and icy Olympia!
It's amazing how a little snow and ice can wreak havoc on a region that see little of both most of the year. Without the snow plows and the de-icers for roads, and with a population that – for the most part – doesn't quite understand how to handle these conditions, driving around town can be a unique adventure. But, we kick the SUV into 4-wheel drive, keep our heads on swivels as we watch out for other drivers, and make the most of it. I will say this, I've had less lobbyists and special interest groups coming into my office the past few days asking for their pet programs to be spared from budget cuts. Always look on the bright side, right?
Partial budget fix
As you recall, in late September, the governor called a special session for Nov. 28 and conveyed a sense of urgency to state lawmakers about the growing budget problem. This gave budget writers a two-month head start on solutions to what everyone understood would be a $2 billion spending gap ($1.4 billion shortfall, plus $600 million needed for reserves). Unfortunately, majority-party budget writers did not rise to meet the level of urgency of the situation at hand and passed a measure (House Bill 2058) that can best be described as a partial budget fix, but probably more accurately can be described as “business as usual” as money was transferred from one account to another and certain “savings” were “banked” early. I didn't support this approach and voted against this proposal. While it did provide a small amount of saving (about $479 million), it did not finish the job we set out to do and further perpetuates the majority party's history of “kicking the can down the road.”
Here's a quick breakdown on the supposed solution:
- $322.9 million in maintenance and policy reductions;
- $106.2 in fund transfers; and
- $50.6 million from raiding an account for unclaimed property in the state.
What newspapers are saying about the special session
I was very disappointed with the outcomes of the special session. I thought the partial budget fix did not go far enough, no meaningful state government reforms were advanced, and there was absolutely no consideration given to legislation that would strengthen our economy and create jobs. Here are samples of what editorial boards across our state had to say about the special session:
- We need more solutions, less maneuvering from Olympia – The Daily News, Dec. 20, 2011
- Coal in the stocking for a do-nothing Legislature – The News Tribune, Dec. 14, 2011
- State lawmakers' disappointing budget effort 'better than nothing' – Seattle Times, Dec. 13, 2011
- Legislators dawdling rather than doing job – Spokesman-Review, Dec. 11, 2011
- More foot-dragging – The Columbian, Dec. 8, 2011
Good news from Olympia
Encouraging employment numbers
There was some good news to come from Olympia last month. The Employment Security Department released data showing that our state's seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate went from 9.1 percent in October to 8.7 percent in November. This means more than 12,000 jobs were added, which represents the largest one-month employment gain over the last four years. Preliminary estimates also show that nearly every industry sector posted job gains in November. You can read more here. Let's hope this economic momentum continues in 2012, as consumers gain more confidence and employers continue to hire.
Again, thank you for the honor of serving you in Olympia. I'll continue to update you from time to time on the budget and other issues of importance. Please feel free to contact me with your questions or concerns.