OLYMPIA — Senate Democratic leaders think they've narrowed a stack of possible reforms that some member wants to a smaller list they may be able to pass.
The reforms would save at least $50 million in this budget cycle, and as much as $300 million over the next three years as they slowly take hold in government. That's not enough to fill a projected gap of more than $1 billion in the state's General Fund budget over the next 18 months, Majority Leader Lisa Brown of Spokane said.
But without tangible reforms, voters are going to be “extremely skeptical” support any request for a tax increase, Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, said.
Some of the ideas are on lists offered by Republicans, such as streamlined permitting for businesses and restructuring state government to make it cheaper and more efficient., although it won't be possible to tell if the details are compatible until the bills are introduced.
Some have come close to passing in previous sessions, such as cracking down on Medicaid fraud and abuse, only to founder on disputes over details.
They expect to introduce reform bills in the next week or so. Budget hearings will also begin in the Ways and Means Committee, with the idea of having a budget “ready or almost ready” when the next state revenue forecast is released in mid February. Plans are to pass a budget by early March and not go into overtime with a special session.
“This does not get any easier by hanging around,” Brown said.