Category Archives: Budget

Is Giving Up Golf On The Table?

President Obama met with his Cabinet yesterday and afterward delivered some remarks. He said, among other things:

Since that time, we’ve passed a Recovery Act that’s put a middle-class tax cut into people’s pockets, that has invested in infrastructure all across this country and put people back to work, and something that isn’t noted often enough, has helped stabilize state budgets at a time in which we could have seen hundreds of thousands of layoffs in teachers and police officers and firefighters. (Read President Obama’s full remarks.)

I suppose that you could say stimulus funds “stabilized the budget” here in Washington if you consider a one-time infusion of funds to be stabilization. Actually it might have worked quite nicely if Washington’s budget difficulties were a one-time concern rather than being largely the result of chronic over-spending. Unfortunately, Washington D.C. just acted as an enabler for the spending-addicted cash junkies in Olympia, allowing them to avoid making meaningful cuts in a bloated, unsustainable budget.

Now Washington faces a monstrous $2 billion budget deficit. Even if taxes are raised, cuts are coming and they will be deep and painful. As things stand here right now, I’d have to say that “budget stabilization” hasn’t worked out so well.

President Obama also vowed not to rest until “until businesses are investing again and businesses are hiring again and people have work again.”

How nice. It’s good to know he’s on the job, but honestly, I’d feel better if he’d vowed to give up golf. Maybe then we could expect him to pay some serious attention to actual job creation.

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Budget Innovations!

In a brilliant display of innovation, State lawmakers have combined two plays from their playbook: “it’s for the children” and “you don’t need no stinkin’ 911.”

From King5.com:

“Children’s CEO Dr. Tom Hansen says the proposed cuts don’t make financial sense.

‘The budget cuts $60 million from Children’s Hospital to save the State only $25 million,” he told a news conference in Olympia. “$35 million of this cut is federal Medicaid matching funds that will be lost; turned back to the federal government.’”

I’m not claiming to be a budget expert, nor am I trying to claim that the budget can be balanced without making cuts to essential services such as education, prisons and Medicaid payments to Children’s Hospital.

All I’m saying is that until every bit of discretionary and pork-barrel spending has been stripped from the budget, it’s hard to believe that lawmakers are really trying. And if you doubt that pork-barrel spending exists at the State level, let me point out that Spokane, the intended recipient of $200K to help host the US Figure Skating Championships, is the home district of Senate Majority Leader, Lisa Brown.

Question: I still want to know, is State aid and in-state tuition for illegal immigrants on the table?

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Back To The Playbook

Olympia has gone back to the playbook to prep voters to say “Yes!” to new taxes. Remember, the first play was, “it’s for the children,” an old and trusty standby and today it’s “we’re sorry, we just can’t keep you safe.” I almost expect the State to pull out some variation of King County’s old standard, “you don’t need no stinkin’ 911.”

As reported in the Seattle Times, lawmakers are considering closing prisons and releasing prisoners early as part of the cuts needed to close the out budget deficit. It’s projected that this move would save $16 million over two years, which seems like chump change compared to the cost:

“[Senate Ways and Means Chairwoman Margarita] Prentice is backing a plan in the Senate’s proposed state budget to close the McNeil Island Correctional Complex, a 1,300-inmate, medium-security island prison in Pierce County….

…The Senate budget also would close Green Hill School, the state lockup for violent and gang-entrenched juveniles; downsize the state prison population by 1,900 inmates; and drop people convicted of low-level felonies and misdemeanors from probation.

The House, in its proposed budget, would cut probation time for violent felons and sex offenders; allow for home detention instead of incarceration in some cases; close the medium-security Naselle Youth Camp; and eliminate parole for nearly a third of all juvenile offenders.”

For my readers from other states, McNeil Island houses the Special Commitment Center, which, while not a program of the Department of Corrections, relies on support from Corrections personnel to help run the facility.

Essentially the State is saying the voters better ante up on those new taxes or don’t hold them responsible for what happens when all those felons are turned out of the prisons. They’re hoping that this is the year – finally! – they can ram that state income tax down the throats of Washington taxpayers.

It all comes back to Olympia’s strategy of funding low priority budget items and giving essential services short shrift or, in less lofty terms, blackmailing the voters into approving new taxes.

Question: What about State aid and in-state tuition for illegal immigrants? Is that on the table? Don’t count on it.

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Cynical Manipulation

The Democrat-controlled Washington State legislature has once again decided that it’s better to manipulate the public with inflammatory rhetoric and a sham of a budget rather than set realistic priorities and engage the public in honest debate about the tough choices that need to be made to get Washington on the path to fiscal sustainability.

Although the House and Senate budgets differ, they share some common features. Notably, both make deep cuts in both K-12 and higher education, while funding other, lower priority programs.

For example:

  • Asian affairs commission – $315k
  • Spokane hosting USA figure skating championship – $200k
  • Spanish TV – $40k
  • Department of Personnel gets a 5% increase – $3 million increase
  • Hispanic Affairs Commission – $371K
  • African American Affairs Commission – $343K
  • Municipal Research Council gets a 9.7% increase – $6.3 million spent
  • Minority and Women Businesses – $3.7 million spent
  • State Liquor Board – $245 million spent (all funds)
  • Public Employment Relations Commission – $9.5 million spent (all funds)
  • Archaeology and Historic Preservation – $4.7 million spent (all funds)
  • Growth Management Hearing Boards – $2.8 million spent (all funds)
  • State Convention and Trade Center – $117.1 million spent (all funds)
  • Human Rights Commission – $7.7 million spent (all funds)
  • Retro Plan Review for L&I – $788 thousand (all funds)
  • Funding Greenhouse Gas Reporting for Ecology – $696 thousand (all funds)
  • Climate Change Response for Ecology – $376 thousand
  • Agency Climate Leadership – $42 thousand
  • Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions for Ecology – $862 thousand (all funds)
  • Recreation and Conservation Funding Board – $18.5 million spent (all funds)
  • State Conservation Commission – $16.6 million spent (all funds)
  • Transitional Bilingual Instruction $209.4 million spent (all funds)
  • Higher Education Coordinating Board – $551.1 million spent (all funds)
  • State Arts Commission – $6.7 million spent (all funds)
  • Washington State Historical Society – $7.8 million spent (all funds)
  • Eastern Washington State Historical Society – $6.4 million spent (all funds

I’m not saying that these aren’t worthy programs (nor am I implying that cutting these programs would even make a dent in the expected shortfall), but is funding them really more important than funding basic education?

Of course not and the Democrats know this. They also know that voters would be far less likely to vote for new taxes to fund, say, Archaeology and Historic Preservation or the Eastern Washington Historical Society than they would be to “save the teachers.”

Yes, that’s right. We’re being told that 4,000 to 6,000 teachers could lose their jobs because Olympia has refused to fund basic K-12 education. I certainly don’t mean to imply that teachers aren’t worth saving. I’m just saying that they’re being trotted out as engineered victims of the budget crisis in a calculated attempt to manipulate the Washington voters into pulling the lever for the new taxes that will inevitably be proposed. Because it’s “for the children” rather than that photo of Narcissa Whitman. And as if the only people employed in education are teachers. I guess it’s a lot harder to gin up some sympathy for faceless administrators than it is for Ms. Smith.

Another budget shenanigan? Using one-time funding sources to help cover the shortfall, including $3 billion in ARRA funds, $780 million from construction projects and $400 billion by raiding tweaking the State pension system. How does it help in the long run to use $3 billion in ARRA funds to cover operating expenses? Wouldn’t it be better to address the cause of the budget crisis, namely reckless spending by State government?

And there’s more. While Governor Gregoire pledged that she would refer any proposed new taxes to the voters, she’s singing a slightly different tune as some taxes are being renamed as surcharges and donations – yes! donations! – to avoid the 2/3 majority requirement in the legislature.

About those donations, it’s been proposed that rather than close any of our beautiful and heavily used State parks, vehicle owners be given the option to donate $5 per vehicle towards keeping them open. I think that’s a great idea, and personally I’d be happy to make that donation. The thing is, rather than proposing an opt-in system, where you need to take positive action to make the $5 donation, what’s been proposed is an opt-out system, where you need to take positive action if you don’t want to make the donation. Tax or donation?

And surcharges; we don’t want to leave those out. Both the Senate and the House proposals make deep cuts in higher education, which are expected to reduce the number of slots available for new students by up to 10,000. Larger than normal tuition increases are expected to offset part and Governor has proposed that students be assessed an additional surcharge. Tax or surcharge?

State lawmakers have really pulled out all the stops in their budgeting process this year. First, the House and Senate budgets were unveiled with barely a month left in the regular legislative session. I don’t know for a certainty that the motivation for this was to limit debate and hamper the effort to mount an effective opposition, but that’s certainly a possibility; they’ve funded lower priority items and left high priority items under-funded to improve the chance that new taxes will be approved by the voters; and they’re engaging in word games to disguise taxes as something other than taxes. This amounts to nothing less than a shameless and cynical attempt by Olympia Democrats to manipulate Washington citizens and avoid making necessary tough decisions to move the State towards fiscal responsibility or taking responsibility for the current budget crisis. I’m calling foul.

(My thanks to Mr. Paul Guppy of the Washington Policy Center for his assistance.)

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Deficit Be Damned, Olympia Democrats Can Still Think Of New Ways To Spend Your Money

Faced with a $6 billion deficit and proposed deep cuts to higher education, Representative Dave Quall (D-Mount Vernon) has proposed legislation that would make state financial aid available to illegal immigrants as an option for financing their college educations. Illegal residents already qualify for in-state tuition.

It would seem to me that the prudent course of action regarding illegal immigrants and our State universities, given the magnitude of the budge crisis we’re facing, would be not to offer to help them pay for their education, but to deny them in-state tuition. Or even, heaven forbid, require proof of legal status to enroll.

Democrats are quick to point out that many of the students who would benefit from State financial aid were brought here illegally by their parents as very young children and are thoroughly American, other than their immigration status. They claim that it’s unfair to deny them an education. Let me be quick to respond that actions have consequences. That these students find themselves in the awkward position of being Americanized and prepared for college with no easy means to pay for it is a consequence of their parents electing to enter the United States illegally.

From the Seattle Times:

Students like Manuel Garcia, a Mount Vernon High School junior with a 3.9 GPA, whose mother brought him to the U.S. when he was a baby.

Now, 17, he’d like to attend Washington State University when he graduates next year but keeps hearing from aid counselors that he doesn’t qualify for assistance and can’t work on campus.

“They say … if you have the money you can come,” Garcia said. “I think it’s obvious I don’t have $20,000 to go to college.”

Illegal immigrants who desire a college education need to be willing to work for it, rather than looking to the state to pay for it. While I’m sure that Garcia is a very nice young man, he’s already had the benefit of a free education which in all likelihood is far superior to what he would have received in his native country. And while he would “like” to attend Washington State, there are other, more affordable routes to a college education. Such as starting at a community college while living at home and working to save money.

This legislation represents a bad idea, whose time – I hope – never comes.

Read the complete article in the Seattle Times.

View House Bill 1706 and Senate Bill 5959 (note that illegal immigrants qualify as residents for tuition purposes.

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