Today’s edition has an op-ed by Children's Alliance Executive Director Paola Maranan urging lawmakers to protect kids this legislative session. You’ll also read about 14,000 petition signatures that the Rebuilding Our Economic Future Coalition (the Children’s Alliance is a member) delivered to Gov. Chris Gregoire and legislators asking them to seek new revenue to blunt proposed budget cuts.
Washington lawmakers must be as courageous as struggling families have to be, writes Paola Maranan, executive director of the Children's Alliance. They must raise substantial new revenue and protect programs that help families stay afloat.
Washington's 147 state lawmakers returned Monday to Olympia, and the Democrat-controlled House and Senate were quickly greeted at the Capitol by conflicting messages about taxation and spending. Activists with the Rebuilding Our Economic Future Coalition handed about 14,000 petition signatures to Gov. Chris Gregoire in the morning asking her to seek new revenue to blunt some of the $1.7 billion in cuts that her first budget in early December spelled out.
One of the most anticipated questions of the 2010 legislative session will be answered today when Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire reveals what taxes she wants to hike to avoid slashing $750 million from health care, human service and public school programs. Gregoire will use a midday address to the Legislature and an appearance before a Senate committee to lay out her equation for generating enough money to cover specific programs targeted for elimination in the proposed budget she issued last month, including early childhood education.
Back in September, there was doubt that Democrats would be inclined to go for new taxes in an election year. Now the size of the problem has nearly tripled. Right out of the gates, Democratic leaders are signaling that they intend to rebalance the current, biennial budget with a combination of cuts and taxes. Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, calls raising taxes a “moral necessity.”
Gov. Chris Gregoire won’t suggest a full roster of tax hikes to pay for the programs she wants rescued from the state’s $2.6 billion budget deficit, deferring instead to the Legislature while state officials wait for word of another federal bailout. But Gregoire will suggest closing some tax loopholes, including a plan that could net about $100 million by adjusting tax policy for out-of-state companies that operate in Washington and home-state firms that do business elsewhere — including Microsoft Corp.
Last year was bad. This year is worse. The future won't be much better. That, in a nutshell, describes the state budget mess lawmakers face when the Legislature convenes its 60-day session Monday. Revenue collections have dropped so fast — by $1.5 billion in the past year, with more declines forecast — that state Treasurer Jim McIntire warned that the government literally could run out of money in a few months.
A 60-day legislative session like this year’s carries an innate sense of urgency. Time is short, and lawmakers’ wish lists are never as truncated as their schedule. Pacing is even more critical than usual this year, as lawmakers race against not just the clock but a chasm in the state budget. A Seattle economist told The Seattle Times last week that it might take 10 years for taxable retail sales in Puget Sound to truly recover. There is no rescue headed Washington’s way that is big enough to sustain state government that long. Lawmakers will have to make some hard choices, and the sooner the better.
Washington state needs more revenue to protect our future, writes Remy Trupin of the Washington State Budget and Policy Center. The governor suggests $700,000 in tax increases but that is a drop in the budget. A penny-per-dollar increase in the sales tax would raise about $1 billion.
DSHS has expanded to become the state’s largest agency, administering divisions dealing with everything from the treatment of drugs and alcohol, welfare assistance and homelessness, to child protective services and programs for the aging and disabled. With more than 19,000 employees and a staggeringly high budget of more than $20 billion, DSHS has grown so large and unwieldy that it has lost its way. Representative Mike Armstrong discusses using this year as the beginning of comprehensive agency reform that is most effective at helping those at risk, providing for our most vulnerable, and saving the lives of innocent children who rely on the state for their protection.
Research increasingly shows the benefits of early childhood education but are business and government leaders getting the message? KING 5 TV News anchors Joyce Taylor and Brad Goode explore in an hour-long primetime special our state's path to a better early education system and talk to the leaders who are trying to get us there.