IIW That

1. Isn't it weird that ... voters rejected Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna, yet the key component of the Republican senate's state budget plan mirrors a McKenna budget proposal?

When a reporter called Republican budget chair Sen. Andy Hill (R-45, Redmond) on this at yesterday's press conference (nice Spidey senses, Andrew Garber from the Times), Hill downplayed the similarity: "I believe he may have had something similar," Hill said sheepishly.

In fact, it's the same proposal: Any revenues that come in above a combo of the average inflation and population growth percentages over three years would have to go to education. So, if population grows 1.5 percent and inflation grows 1.5 percent annually, that's three percent, or six percent for a biennium. In that instance, any revenue above a six-percent increase over a biennium must go to education.

Locking the legislature into the GOP's scaled-back metric for non-education spending will harm the state's ability to budget according to the reality of what the state's population needs.

The proposal has scary implications for the general fund, which has to pay for things like health care for seniors. Here's why: Biennium to biennium maintenance-level expenditures don't just track inflation and population growth; they also take into account caseload growth.

With the elderly population growing four percent on average every year, locking the legislature into the GOP's scaled-back metric for non-education spending will harm the state's ability to budget according to the reality of what the state's population needs. 

Here's a reality from the Office of Financial Management: Between 2008 and today, real revenues for the state have dropped 7.8 percent while the long-term care caseload has grown 17.3 percent.  

2. Isn't it Weird That ... another component of the senate's budget proposal would "re-purpose" dollars that senators have previously said don't exist?

Their budget calls for spending money mandated by 2000's I-732 on education (though not necessarily on teacher salaries, as I-732 required). In the past, legislators have proposed spending that money on education biennium after biennium, but it's always dropped to balance the budget.

The GOP idea to spend the money sounds nice, but in reality, what it means is that in the next biennium the non-education budget will immediately face a $755 million shortfall.

3. Isn't it Weird That ... in a state where geography defines political differences, the two main rivals in this year's budget negotiations are from the exact same district—senate majority leader Rodney Tom (D-48, Medina) on the right and house appropriations chair Rep. Ross Hunter (D-48, Medina) on the left?

Yeah, yeah, I know it's not surprising that two of the most powerful people in the state are white dudes living in the Microsoft suburbs, but the fact that they have the exact opposite take on things—Hunter called yesterday's Republican budget proposal "unsustainable" "unconstitutional" and "downright cruel"—makes the debate much more interesting. 

I couldn't help but notice that Tom looked ashen yesterday when the press informed him that Hunter thought Tom's budget was based on gimmicks. 

I have a message in to Tom.

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