House Republican Leader says lawmakers should fix the budget mess sooner rather than later
Across-the-board cuts would punish the truly needy
State House Republican Leader Richard DeBolt said lawmakers should live up to their responsibility and balance the state budget sooner rather than later by setting priorities for government spending. DeBolt, R-Chehalis, said Republicans strongly oppose any additional tax increases on Washington citizens, and he is disappointed in legislators who want to shirk their responsibility and leave Gov. Christine Gregoire to make across-the-board cuts.
“The lawmakers who have led us into this deficit should have the guts to step up and solve it, not pass off their responsibility to someone else,” said DeBolt. “Budget writers should develop a plan for balancing the budget and then hold a one-day special session to put us on a course of responsible and sustainable state spending.”
Ranking Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Gary Alexander, proposes that budget negotiators from all four caucuses convene a bipartisan work group to develop a balanced-budget agreement. That would help ensure that a special session would be limited to one day.
“Lawmakers owe the taxpayers our best effort to deliver critical services while being mindful that every dollar government spends comes from someone who earned it. Allowing agencies to be cut across the board is not living up to that responsibility,” said Alexander, R-Olympia. “Simply allowing across-the-board cuts demonstrates a lack of leadership and poor decision-making. It would require that funding for the developmentally disabled be cut at the same level as funding for the arts. It would require funding for poor school districts be cut the same as the state printing office. We were elected to lead and lawmakers should have the courage to come fix the problem they created.”
Alexander said cutting across the board does not allow for any reserves to protect taxpayers against continuing economic downturns. It also fails to fix the structural problems in the state budget that have contributed to the growing deficit. While revenues have not kept pace with projections, Democrat budget writers increased spending by 33 percent from 2005 – 2008 and gambled on the state receiving federal money that was never approved.
House Republicans have been warning for years that the Democrats' spending pattern was unsustainable would leave to kind of deficits the state is now facing. They have offered hundreds of millions of dollars in proposed spending reductions, including privatizing liquor stores, state employee pay freezes and eliminating the Department of Printing. The cost- saving measures were rejected by majority Democrats.
DeBolt participated in a conference call today with the governor and lawmakers representing the three other legislative caucuses. The purpose of the call was to determine whether lawmakers would be willing to come back for a special session to balance the state budget, which is expected to be in the red this year and short by at least $3 billion in the next biennium.
Two top House Democrats have already sent a letter to the governor asking her not to call for a special session to balance the budget.
“There is an astonishing lack of interest among the members in the majority party to step up and solve this problem,” DeBolt said. “I understand there will be some unpopular decisions that won't sit well with special interest groups. But we don't stop being legislators just because the job gets difficult.”
Contact: Lisa Fenton, Communications Director: (360) 786-7728
###Washington State House Republican Communications