Washington State Legislature Calls Budget-Cutting Saturday Session

December 11, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comments Off 

Saturday is a red-letter day in Washington State. Its legislative body entered into a special 24-hour (read: rubber-stamp) session designed to chop about a half-billion-dollars from the 2009-2011 budget.

This is an opaque rush job.

Governor Christine Gregoire announced the special session late on Thursday, after a closed door session with legislative leaders. Gregoire asserted that the bipartisan group of legislative leaders had agreed to “about $ 584 million in savings.”

This special session is a rush job because once January rolls around, there will be a brand new, regular, 105-day, legislative session. With a new legislature. The Governor noted in her special session declaration (pdf) that “legislative action is needed to avoid a deficit in the State General Fund at the end of the current fiscal period on June 30, 2011.”

The only explanation given for the rubber-stamp session (House Ways and Means vote: 18-0) — one where the 188-age House budget bill was not made public until 11 am, after the House Ways and Means Committee met at 10 am — was the Governor’s assertion that “time is of the essence.”

However, as in DC, what has to be in play is the change in composition of the legislature, even though the change is less radical than inside the Beltway. Prior to November 2nd, the Democratic majority was 31-18 in the Senate and 61-37 in the House. With the final recount decided earlier this month, the Democratic majority dropped to 27-22 in the Senate and 56-42 in the House. One of those casualties was House Ways and Means Chair Kelli Linville of Bellingham.

Today’s Agenda

Here’s the bill summary for HB 3225 (remember, this was made public after the hearing):

Appropriations are modified for the 2009-11 biennium. Near General Fund-State appropriations are reduced by $ 490.4 million, while the total budgeted amount is reduced by $ 336.5 million.

Technical adjustments are made to some appropriations to reflect vetoes of provisions in the 2010 supplemental budget (ESSB 6444).

Appropriation: The bill contains multiple appropriations. Please refer to the bill and supporting documents.

Other bills scheduled for vote today include HB 3224, Suspending the child support pass through payment (HB 3224 bill report, pdf), and HB 3223, Establishing a temporary penalty and interest waiver program for certain excise taxes administered by the department of revenue (HB 3223 bill report, pdf).

What’s Being Cut?

On Friday, the Seattle Times published a document shared by someone in the legislature — a summary of the cuts as detailed by the House Ways and Means Committee. Almost two-thirds of the cuts relate to K-12 and higher education. I think it’s important to point out right here that the state has only one constitutional mandate: education.

For example, here’s one way money is being moved from education to general services:

Part of agreement calls for taking $ 208 million in federal aid intended for teacher and law enforcement jobs and sticking it in the general fund to help pay the state’s day-to-day expenses.

According to OFM in May, approximately $ 30.5 billion of the 2009-2011 state operating budget is supported by General Fund-State (GF-S) tax and fee revenues and reserves.

Here’s what the HB 3225 summary released on Friday said about “Near General Fund-State = GF-S + ELT” reductions:

  • Total Public Schools – reduced by $ 260,356,000 – 53% of the total
  • Higher Ed – reduced by $ 51,088,000 – 10% of the total
  • DSHS – reduced by $ 74,652,000 – 15% of the total
  • Department of Corrections – reduced by $ 48,424,000 – 10% of the total
  • Washington Health Care Authority – $ 27,724,000 – 6% of the total
  • Natural Resources – reduced by $ 17,035,000 – 3% of the total
  • Judicial – reduced by $ 4,266,000 – <1% of the total
  • Total Government Operations – reduced by $ 3,742,000 – <1% of the total
  • Legislative – reduced by $ 3,067,000 – <1% of the total

Here’s the spending breakdown as presented by Olympia in 2009 (pdf, page 4):

Washington State Budget - 2009-2011

Washington State Budget – 2009-2011

Questions that provide context for today’s news that I can’t find answers to in any of the reporting on this issue:

  • Where has the governor and legislature made cuts since the 2009 budget was passed? In other words, given that today’s cuts appear to fall disproportionately on public education, is that because public education has escaped cuts until now? Likewise, look at government operations: about 8% of the 2009-2011 budget but less than 1% of the cuts proposed today. Is that because government operations has already taken a big hit?
  • What is the decision-making process being used to determine cuts? Where is the cost-benefit analysis?
  • What efforts has the state made to elicit budget-saving ideas from employees?
  • What efforts has the state made to elicit budget-saving ideas from citizens?

If the general fund-supported part of the state operating budget for 2009-2011 is currently $ 30.5 billion and the current shortfall is about $ 1 billion, that’s approximately a 3 percent shortfall (the 2009-2011 budget as passed, pdf).

However, this shortfall has to be put in context, but I can’t find that context online (and I’m a pretty good Googler).

When the 2009-2011 budget was passed, the Office of Financial Management wrote (pdf):

For the 2009-11 biennium, the anticipated cost to maintain current programs, including caseload growth in entitlement programs, was $ 37.0 billion.

[…]

The budget included $ 94 million for additional costs of employee health care coverage in K-12, higher education, and state agencies. Additionally, the budget included $ 303 million in policy increases. Some of the most significant include: $ 82 million to maintain the current higher education financial aid policy; $ 55 million for debt service associated with the 2009-11 capital budget; caseload growth in programs for the developmentally disabled; and $ 20 million for the final phase of an information technology project designed to improve the efficiency of payments for Medical Assistance vendors.

What has already been cut and when and by how much?

Note: the state has wasted the money provided by the federal government for the Medicaid payment system.

Documents @ Scribd.com


The Moderate Voice

Saturday reading: Holbrooke

December 11, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comments Off 

The diplomat is, suddenly, very sick.

The St. Pete Times reckons with Scott’s education agenda.

Cliff Levy vividly exposes Russian fake democracy.

Nixon didn’t trust the Jews.

Clinton acknowledges Mideast frustrations.

And Elizabeth Edwards is mourned.

Holder defends terror stings. (Without making a broader judgment here, because the situations are so different, imagine if the FBI had similar stings on teenagers on the fringe of the environmental, or pro-gun, or pro-Israel movements.





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Ben Smith’s Blog

Saturday Open Thread

December 11, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comments Off 

For general discussion and debate about politics, the economy, sports, and whatever else tickles your fancy.

NewsBusters.org blogs

Saturday Open Thread: WWII Edition

December 11, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comments Off 

Today, in 1941, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States. It wasn’t one of their better decisions.


Big Government

Saturday Open Thread

December 10, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comments Off 

hat tips-itgurl_29, Angelar

The President and First Family lit up the WH Christmas Tree.

Good Morning.

As you spend this weekend with family and friends, don’t forget JJP.

Drop those links. Engage in debate. Give us trivia and gossip too.

And always, have a peaceful day.


Jack & Jill Politics

Saturday funeral likely for Elizabeth Edwards

December 8, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comments Off 

Chapel Hill, North Carolina (CNN) – Family and trusted friends are huddled together planning details for Elizabeth Edwards’ funeral.

One of them tells CNN the service will be in Chapel Hill, likely on Saturday.  The close and trusted family friend said that the former wife of 2008 presidential candidate John Edwards mapped out a lot of the details before her passing.

Edwards died on Tuesday after a prolonged battle with breast cancer.  She was 61 years old.

John Moylan worked with both Edwards in the husband’s White House bids in 2004, as a vice presidential nominee, and in 2008.  Amid the Edwards’ brushes with success – and scandal – Moylan remained close with the family.

In talking to CNN about a likely Saturday funeral, Moylan stressed there were not yet firm details.  He also said it’s not yet certain whether any reporters, including a TV crew, would be allowed inside the service.

Moylan was not inside the family home at the exact time of Elizabeth Edwards’ passing. He was there shortly after.  He described to CNN the mood in the house.

“I think there’s understandable sadness over Elizabeth’s death.  But I think it was a remarkable display of strength,” Moylan said.

“Elizabeth did a great job in preparing her children and her family for this day.”

Moylan also said that the Edwards’ two young children, Jack and Emma Claire, were sent to school on Tuesday – after their mother’s death – to maintain a sense of normalcy.

The couple had two other children: Cate, an adult, and Wade, who died in 1996 in a car accident.

Moylan said a photo of Wade was at Elizabeth Edwards’ bedside when she passed.  Though Moylan said it had long been there.

John Edwards was there in the final moments of his former wife’s life.

Moylan explained to CNN that the former presidential candidate is dealing with the loss – and what his focus is going forward.

“John is focusing all of his energy and attention on the children.  Which I think is the appropriate thing for him to be doing,” Moylan said.


CNN Political Ticker

Details being mapped out for likely Saturday funeral for Elizabeth Edwards

December 8, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comments Off 

Chapel Hill, North Carolina (CNN) – Family and trusted friends are huddled together planning details for Elizabeth Edwards’ funeral.

One of them tells CNN the service will be in Chapel Hill, likely on Saturday. The close and trusted family friend said that the former wife of 2008 presidential candidate John Edwards mapped out a lot of the details before her passing.

Edwards died on Tuesday after a prolonged battle with breast cancer. She was 61 years old.

John Moylan worked with both Edwards in the husband’s White House bids in 2004, as a vice presidential nominee, and in 2008. Amid the Edwards’ brushes with success – and scandal – Moylan remained close with the family.

In talking to CNN about a likely Saturday funeral, Moylan stressed there were not yet firm details. He also said it’s not yet certain whether any reporters, including a TV crew, would be allowed inside the service.

Moylan was not inside the family home at the exact time of Elizabeth Edwards’ passing. He was there shortly after. He described to CNN the mood in the house.

“I think there’s understandable sadness over Elizabeth’s death. But I think it was a remarkable display of strength,” Moylan said.

“Elizabeth did a great job in preparing her children and her family for this day.”

Moylan also said that the Edwards’ two young children, Jack and Emma Claire, were sent to school on Tuesday to maintain a sense of normalcy.

The couple had two other children: Cate, an adult, and Wade, who died in 1996 in a car accident.

Moylan said a photo of Wade was at Elizabeth Edwards’ bedside when she passed. Though Moylan said it had long been there.

John Edwards was there in the final moments of his former wife’s life.

Moylan explained to CNN that the former presidential candidate is dealing with the loss – and what his focus is going forward.

“John is focusing all of his energy and attention on the children. Which I think is the appropriate thing for him to be doing,” Moylan said.


CNN Political Ticker

America Held Hostage: Saturday tax cut showdown fizzles

December 4, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comments Off 

The two “showdown” votes on tax cuts in the Senate came … and went… From Politico: Democrats failed to break a Republican filibuster Saturday of two measures that would have ended Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, forcing both parties back to the negotiating table if they want to avert a tax hike next […]
The Reid Report

Saturday reading: Taxes

December 4, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comments Off 

Now it’s all or nothing on taxes.

Obama gets his Korean trade deal.

Hamsher’s appalled by the UAW support for it.

Rogers predicts Obama will sell out the left.

Sargent wonders how the "Don’t Ask" debate got so "antiseptic."

An Afghanistan embargo breaks.

And a National Review writer bets on Palin.





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Ben Smith’s Blog

A Poem For Saturday

December 4, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comments Off 

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"The Sound of Trees " by Robert Frost appeared in The Atlantic in August of 1915:

I wonder about the trees:
Why do we wish to bear
Forever the noise of these
More than another noise
So close to our dwelling place?
We suffer them by the day
Till we lose all measure of pace
And fixity in our joys,
And acquire a listening air.
They are that that talks of going
But never gets away;
And that talks no less for knowing,
As it grows wiser and older,
That now it means to stay.
My feet tug at the floor
And my head sways to my shoulder
Sometimes when I watch trees sway
From the window or the door.
I shall set forth for somewhere,
I shall make the reckless choice,
Some day when they are in voice
And tossing so as to scare
The white clouds over them on.
I shall have less to say,
But I shall be gone.

(Image by Flickr user lambertwm)





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The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan

Saturday Open Thread

December 4, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comments Off 

The President made a surprise visit to Afghanistan yesterday.

Good Morning.

As you spend this weekend with family and friends, don’t forget JJP.

Drop those links. Engage in debate. Give us trivia and gossip too.

And always, have a peaceful day.


Jack & Jill Politics

Saturday Open Thread: Fraunces Tavern Edition

December 4, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comments Off 

Today, in 1783, George Washington bid farewell to his officers from the Revolutionary War.


Big Government

LeBron James, Spoelstra downplay bump in the (Saturday) night – Sun-Sentinel

November 29, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

New York Daily News
LeBron James, Spoelstra downplay bump in the (Saturday) night
Sun-Sentinel
At least the bump between coach Erik Spoelstra and forward LeBron James during a third-quarter timeout Saturday in Dallas. Amid the Heat's overall struggles, and particularly struggles in that loss to the
James, Heat coach Spoelstra have pregame meetingSI.com
Miami heat threatening to bring master plan to ashesCBSSports.com
NBA PM: Spoelstra Failing MiserablyHoopsWorld
NBA.com –New York Daily News –USA Today
all 1,328 news articles »

Sports – Google News

A Poem For Saturday

November 27, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

4810725299_968044e88a_b

"There Was Earth Inside Them" by Paul Celan (1959) was translated from the German by John Felstiner and appeared in The Atlantic in November, 2000:

There was earth inside them, and
they dug.

They dug and dug, and so
their day went past, their night. And they did not praise God,
who, so they heard, wanted all this,
who, so they heard, witnessed all this.

They dug and heard nothing more;
they did not grow wise, invented no song,
devised for themselves no sort of language.
They dug.

There came a stillness then, came also storm,
all of the oceans came.
I dig, you dig, and it, the worm, digs too,
and the singing there says: They dig.

O one, O none, O no one, O you:
Where did it go, then, making for nowhere?
O you dig and I dig, and I dig through to you,
and the ring on our finger awakens.

(Image by Flickr user Sweetheardt)





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The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan

Saturday reading: Wiki

November 27, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

State braces for a massive Wikileak.

Fox tells the Stuxnet story as cyberwar meets spy thriller.

Lamar Smith celebrates exit polls that show 38% of Hispanics going for the GOP. 

Lugar is central to START.

Patty Murray may head the DSCC.

Climate talks stall, mostly because of the U.S.

Bloomberg makes a deal to get his schools pick.

Harassment is good SEO, in a Times expose of a particularly ugly Google incentive.

And Weigel has some good book picks.





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