After watching the Legislature play the "Grinch that Stole the Balanced Budget" earlier this week it was encouraging to open an early Christmas present offered by governor on Thursday (Dec. 15).
At a press conference this morning in Olympia, Gov. Chris Gregoire unveiled several reform initiatives. Among them:
- Pursing a Request For Proposal (RFP) pending legislative authority to privatize the State Lottery (modeled after Illinois reform).
- As a result of the passage of SB 5931 creating the new Department of Enterprise Services and the mandate to put out for competitive contract several activities, bulk printing, mail services outside of Thurston County, and website development are being put out for competitive bid.
While there are still many other opportunities for reform, the announcement by the governor is great news and should be greeted with open arms.
Also discussed at the press conference was the state's six-year budget outlook. One thing that instantly jumped out was the impact that I-728 and I-732 continue to have on state finances.
According to the governor, with I-728/732 included in the budget in future years, the state will continue to face multi-billion dollar shortfalls. Without them, the budget is projected to be balanced in future years assuming 4.5 percent per year revenue growth.
Since funding was not identified for the education spending required under I-728/732 (other than surplus funds) when originally adopted and the measures were subsequently suspended during tough budget times, voters were asked in 2004 to approve I-884 and in 2010 to approve I-1098 to pay in-part for the policies of I-728 and I-732. Both measures were overwhelming rejected statewide.
As a result of this spending pressure as well as the more recent impact with passage of I-1163 on home health care requirements (despite no funding source being provided), Sens. Dan Swecker, Debbie Regala, Mike Hewitt, Nick Harper, Mark Schoesler, Don Benton, Andy Hill, and Randi Becker have introduced a constitutional amendment that would prohibit initiatives from being placed on the ballot "if it is determined by the secretary of state that the initiative fails to provide a new or enhanced revenue source to pay for any increase in state obligations or duties that are created by the initiative."
When asked about the proposed constitutional amendment, the governor indicated it is something she would likely vote for.
Speaking of I-1163, a bill has been introduced by Senators Regala, Swecker, Brian Hatfield, Paull Shin, Schoesler, Rodney Tom, Cheryl Pflug, Steve Hobbs, Janéa Holmquist-Newbry, and Jim Honeyford to suspend the implementation date until July 1, 2014.
This story originally appeared on the Washington Policy Center's Washington Policy Blog and is reprinted with permission.