December 13, 2011

Lawmakes thinking out of the box on budget/revenue solutions


Pushed by your job actions, ideas on closing tax giveaways and personal visits and messages to legislators, many lawmakers are starting to come up with alternatives to the all-cuts budget.

Starting to. Where it ends up is still uncertain.

Here’s a roundup
  • The House Ways and Means Committee is scheduled this morning to vote on an “early action” bill that would solve about a quarter of the $2 billion deficit problem. It would find the savings from administrative cuts like fund transfers, changed caseloads and implementation assumptions and the like.

    It raises some problems we have to watch closely – like cutting several positions at the Special Commitment Center on McNeil Island and releasing 21 non-violent juvenile offenders on their earliest possible release dates.

    It may not be the full answer but it’s a step forward in finding a solution to stopping the cuts and finding revenue to save public safety, public services, health care and higher education.

    Both the House version (HB 2058) and Senate version (SB 5883) had hearings Monday in the respective Ways and Means committees.

    Observers believe the Legislature will adopt the early action bill this week and adjourn their special session. They’d then come back for the regular session starting Jan. 9 to tackle the rest of the deficit problem.
  • Legislative measures ask Congress for authority that could raise $500 million. Both Ways and Means committees on Monday held public hearings on companion messages (called “joint memorials”) to Washington’s two United States senators and nine members of Congress asking them to support the Main Street Fairness Act to allow the state to collect sales tax on Internet sales from out of state. It could raise $500 million, according to the top House budget writer.

    HJM 4012 and SJM 8009 also ask President Obama to sign the federal legislation if it passes Congress. Again, another promising concept that could get us closer to an alternative to the all-cuts budget. HJM 4012 is scheduled for a vote of the House Ways and Means Committee this morning.
  • Jobs Bill. A unique partnership between the Washington State Labor Council and the Association of General Contractors has authored a bill to issue revenue bonds to fund construction projects – and create jobs. And if there are more jobs, there’s more revenue – and another alternative to an all-cuts budget.

    We can’t say it any better than the Washington State Labor Council:

    “It’s time to stop dealing with the symptoms and to treat the disease. What Washington needs to fully recover from the Great Recession is JOBS.

    The clearest way for state government to create jobs is to hire people. Right now, budget cuts are doing the opposite: taking away thousands of public-sector jobs from Washington families. There’s insufficient revenue in the general fund to maintain those jobs and services. But capital budget revenue can be leveraged to support substantial job creation. Washington is in position to frontload that money and create real jobs NOW by investing in public buildings and infrastructure.

    “The Washington State Labor Council/AFL-CIO, the Washington State Building and Construction Trades Council and others in the labor movement have formed an unprecedented coalition with industry groups led by the Association of General Contractors (AGC) to support jobs legislation that would accomplish this.

    “The idea is to pay for state construction projects through revenue bonds.”
We’ll keep you posted on this promising idea.

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