This Washington

Does McKenna's Platform Contradict GOP Budget Proposal?

By Josh Feit March 21, 2012

Republicans in the state senate have been demanding that the state suspend a $130 million pension payment as part of any budget deal. [pullquote]"The state must be prudent and conservative by fully funding its pension obligations"—Rob McKenna[/pullquote]

However, their party's candidate for governor, Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna, doesn't seem to agree. On his candidate web page, which he unveiled last year when he officially announced, he wrote this (underline his):
When state revenues are tight, one of the easiest moves is to short-change the state’s contributions to its pension funds. While this produces short-term savings, the long-term result is unfunded pension obligations that are extremely costly to taxpayers. The state must be prudent and conservative by fully funding its pension obligations, based on the state actuary's recommendations.

Republican state senate budget leader Sen. Joe Zarelli (R-18, Ridgefield) evidently sees it much differently. Rolling out his budget plan last week, he told the press that the "first piece" of his state employee reform plan was to "skip the [pension] payment for 2013, put that money into play now to help us get through the spending side needs in the budget."

McKenna's spokesman Randy Pepple says that the Zarelli plan is okay with McKenna because the skipped payment goes in tandem with reforms—getting rid of the early retirement option for new state employees---that Zarelli says will save $2.3 billion over 25 years and will be put into reduce pension costs going forward.

"Just skipping the payment because you've had no fiscal discipline, which is what Democrats like to do," Pepple says, "that's the wrong thing to do, but linking it to reforms so you get your fiscal house in order, that's the right thing to do."

That certainly lines up with Zarelli's point. Zarelli also told the press: "I know everyone wants to focus on the skipped payment portion, but when we put all of these together we believe what we'll see [is] a net significant reduction in the longterm liability... so that somebody standing up here instead of us in 10 or 15 years isn't talking about how they're going to pay for two or three billion dollars of liabilities that's now come due."
Show Comments