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What Does Washington State’s Legislature Need Accomplish During the Special Session?

Special session going on in Oympia
(Courtesy US Geological Service)

According to Washington Policy Center, a non-profit, non-partisan independent think tank that addresses political and economic issues in Washington, there are five key issues.

The center, which is based out of Seattle with offices in Spokane, Olympia and Tri-Cities, has, over the last few years, made recommendations that were enacted by political leaders at local, regional and even state levels. The center in particular fights for economic and business interests, and takes a hard stand on taxes.

The center says the following items are key to successfully solving the billion-dollar-plus budget shortfall:

  • Keep promises that temporary taxes STAY temporary. Gov. Inslee has attempted to re-define the meaning of the word “temporary,” but extending several taxes due to expire June 30, 2013 breaks faith with Washington voters.
  • Listen to the clear will of the voters. Five times in the last 20 years, Washington voters have chosen to implement a broad-based, bi-partisan super-majority policy to raise taxes. Regardless of the state Supreme Court striking down such proposals, legislators need to implement that type of thinking anyway.
  • Avoid budget gimmicks. Legislators need to align budget needs with incoming revenues to provide a better picture of how much money is actually available, instead of raiding dedicated funds intended for other purposes, as well as other short-term fixes.
  • Save the protected budget reserves for true financial emergencies. Because legislators in the past have raided the state’s reserve funds to balance budgets, Washington voters in 2007 approved protecting the reserve by making it unconstitutional to use those funds for other than emergencies.
  • Adopt a performance-based budget that actually balances over the next four years. This next budget will be subject to the new four-year balanced budget requirement. Make sure when this budget expires in 2015, the state won’t be facing another billion-dollar shortfall like we have now.

The biggest sticking point that led to the need for a special session, says the center, is the House’s controversial budget proposal that more than $1 billion in taxes be added. This is the budget Gov. Inslee has been leaning towards.

 

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