House passes first supplemental budget
'This is a small, but good first step to begin what may be a series of supplemental budgets,' says Alexander
The Washington State House of Representatives passed Substitute House Bill 1694, the first supplemental budget of the 2009 session, this morning. Rep. Gary Alexander, the ranking Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, was hoping for more opportunity to implement cost savings. Nevertheless, he said it was a decent start.
“This is a small, but good first step to begin what may be a series of supplemental budgets passed by the House,” Alexander, R-Olympia, said. “It implements most of the cuts from the governor's supplemental budget but fails to take into account some expenditures for which we're already on the hook, like increased costs for fire suppression and unanticipated state legal fees.
“I support this supplemental budget with the anticipation of being further involved in the process,” Alexander added.
“No one likes to make unpopular cuts. But we are tired of broken promises to the people of the state of Washington,” said House Republican Leader Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis. “We shouldn't put programs into effect that we can't fund.
“We remain concerned that decisions in Olympia continue to be made in an echo chamber. We have the same people trying to solve the same problem with the same ideas, and it's not getting done,” DeBolt said. “This is a small first step. We all know that the difficult decisions are coming. This is about $300 million in reductions out of a $6 billion dollar problem. So we're going to stay at the table, continue to try to negotiate and continue to try to change the way we budget in Washington. We can do it without raising taxes and without making any more empty promises.”
The supplemental budget passed by the House reduces current Near General Fund appropriations by over $630 million. Savings from program reductions or efficiencies make up $283 million while savings from obtained or anticipated increases in federal funds make up $347 million.
Alexander expressed concern that a pattern of relying too heavily upon federal aid may be developing.
“We keep hearing talk of federal money from the current administration,” Alexander said. “But while we wait for some final number, the size of our budget shortfall continues to grow. Federal taxpayer dollars are not the answer to our state's propensity to overspend. They are a temporary band aid that will provide temporary relief for an underlying wound that is still festering.”
House Republicans, led by Alexander, offered two amendments to the supplemental budget that were voted down by the majority party.
The first amendment, dubbed “The Truth in Budgeting Amendment” by Alexander, would have simply appropriated $23 million found in Gov. Gregoire's supplemental budget proposal for obligated expenses that the state must pay, such as unanticipated state legal fees and fire suppression.
The second amendment contained additional costs savings of about $37 million in policy reductions not included in SHB 1694.
“In order to fill a $6 billion budget shortfall, we're going to have to make these cuts eventually,” Alexander said. “We might as well be honest and upfront with taxpayers and make these cuts now and gain the cost savings associated with early implementation.”
Even though both Republican amendments failed, Alexander and DeBolt supported the bill on final passage.
“We need to take action immediately,” Alexander said. “And, even though this is a small step, it gets us going in the right direction.”
###Washington State House Republican Communications