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Spin Control

Posts tagged: House Democrats

House Dem’s budget gets praise, criticism


OLYMPIA – House Democrats want to spend about $1.9 billion more on education over the next two years, paying for much of it by extending some taxes set to expire in June and closing more than a dozen tax breaks now on the books.

As expected, they released a budget Wednesday with significant differences from the plan that passed the Senate last Friday in how it raises, spends and saves money over the two years that start July 1.

It fanned the rhetorical flames over taxing and spending, with one Senate Republican saying House Democrats should “put on their big-boy pants” and make tough budget choices, and Democrats saying the Senate plan was akin to a family putting its groceries on the credit card. . . 

To read the rest of this story, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

Special Session: Budget deal may be far away

OLYMPIA — Senate Republicans and the conservative Democrats who helped them pass an alternate budget last month said they are no closer to agreement on a plan to fix the state's operating budget problems.

“The longer we stay here, the less sustainable th budget they put out becomes,” Sen. Joe Zarelli, R-Ridgefield, said. The proposal released Wednesday morning by House Democrats “just moved us farther apart as far as the structure of the budget.”

Prospects that both chambers will pass a budget and accompanying reforms before the next Tuesday, when the special session is scheduled to end, seemed to grow dimmer with each passing hour.

Zarelli, the ranking Republican on the Senate Ways and Means Committee, contended it was the GOP and the three “road kill” Democrats who have given up the most in negotiations over certain reforms.  They dropped a proposal to skip next year's payment to the state pension system and a proposal to close one of the pension plans. But they want to end early retirement provisions for state employees set up under two separate laws; House Democrats are proposing just ending the most recent law.

“We've moved significantly, but we're not going to fold our tent and go home,” Zarelli said. Democrats have supported the complete package of changes to early retirement provisions in the past, he added.

Sen. Jim Kastama of Puyallup, one of the three Democrats who voted for the budget crafted by Republicans, said a new proposal to pass a law requiring a balanced budget for two years and develop ways to balance it over four years doesn't go far enough toward the goal of structuring spending plans so legislators don't face massive cuts every year when they start a session.

The Legislature already passes a balanced budget over two years, even if that's not required by law, Kastama added. “If we didn't do that, we couldn't sell our bonds.”

Through the assembled reporters, the coalition of senators traded jabs with House Democrats and their earlier statements about who was responsible for the slow progress toward a budget deal in this latest special session.  Each group accused the other of refusing to make concessions, and painted themselves as the ones giving the most in closed door negotiations.

House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, had said negotiators hadn't even been able to negotiate the budget because of Senate Republicans insistence on reforming state government. “We've come significantly toward their position.”

Countered Zarelli: “I don't see it as a good faith effort. They want to take the last few days before Easter, and send an Easter egg our way.”

To complete its work by Tuesday, the House will have to pass a budget and the bills surrounding it sometime this week, and send them to the Senate where it must pass in the same version. House Democratic leaders said they don't know if they have the votes to pass some of the reforms they are proposing; if they do, it goes to the Senate where Democrats also hold a majority but don't have the votes to pass the current proposal.

Asked whether the state was looking at another special session — which would be the third since Thanksgiving to address the current budget problem — Zarelli said Republicans expected “to be flexible but not roll over” and weren't going to be rushed into a vote: “It's going to take whatever time it takes.”

House Dem budget has no state sales tax increase

OLYMPIA — House Democrats offered a budget plan that doesn't call for a state tax increase and doesn't make some of the cuts to public schools and state services that Gov. Chris Gregoire proposed in November.

The school year wouldn't be shorter. The money the state sends to school districts to help make up for the differences in property values between rich areas and poor areas, known as levy equalization, wouldn't be cut. Inmates wouldn't be released early from state prisons.

But House Democrats did propose pulling back some state money currently going to counties and cities, then giving local governments the authority to raise local taxes to cover the difference. They do delay payments to school districts, in what some Republicans call an accounting gimmick. They reduce state employment by more than 1,500 full-time workers. They would leave less money in the treasury at the end of the fiscal period than either Gregoire or the House Republicans. . .

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, click here to go  inside the blog.

WA Lege Day 15: Budget debate in House

OLYMPIA — The first floor debate on budget cuts this session is scheduled for this morning as the state House of Representatives takes up a portion of the 2011 supplemental budget.

This is the budget that gets the state through June 30 — although not the entire budget for that period. The Legislature trimmed some things in the one-day special session in December, and this plan still leaves some spending questions unanswered.

But it does address cuts in education, Basic Health and the Disability Lifeline. The Democratic bill, HB 1086, has some Republican amendments.

Spin Control will provide updates from the House floor.

Elsewhere in the Capitol, a Senate committee is expected to vote on a proposal to do away with the 2012 presidential primary to save the state about $10 million. A House committee will be looking at the governor's plan to consolidate state agencies. Another House committee has a hearing on the Basic Health plan.

House Dems budget tries to save Basic Health, Disability Lifeline

OLYMPIA — House Democrats released their proposal for cuts to the state budget through the end of June, which veer off from Gov. Chris Gregoire's proposal in some respects.

What Ways and Means Chairman Ross Hunter is calling an “early action budget” because it tries to get a quick vote on the plan to cut about $216 million from the state general fund and transfer another $124 million into the general fund from other accounts. Some further cuts would likely have to be made after the March economic forecast numbers come out, Hunter said.

The House Dems' proposal would continue to provide some money Basic Health Care for low-income children at the current level, and the Disability Lifeline which provides payments residents who are too disabled to work. Saving Basic Health long-term could take a statewide vote on a source of money.

It cuts programs for food assistance, child abuse prevention, prescription help for seniors, community health clinics, family planning and mental health assistance, but not as much Gregoire's proposal.

Education cuts are about the same, but the House Dems want to keep state money for levy equalization, which is a way the state helps out smaller and poorer districts that don't have the tax base that other districts have.

Ways and Means finished a two-hour hearing on the proposal shortly before 6 p.m. in which reprieves were sought for a wide variety of programs on the chopping block. Hunter said the committee will probably vote on this budget plan on Wednesday afternoon, and the House could take it up as early as Friday.

The bill is PSHB 1086.

WA Lege Day 50: House Dems propose taxes on candy, gum, bottled water, lawyers and facelifts

OLYMPIA — House Democrats will get a chance to help the state’s budget woes by putting a sales tax on bottled water, candy and gum and cosmetic surgery. Upping the business taxes on lawyers, accountants and marketing consultants. Repealing or reducing an array of tax exemptions or “loopholes.” And upping the tax on a pack of cigarettes by $1.

House Finance Committed Chairman Ross Hunter, D-Bellevue, released the long-awaited House tax package that raises $857 million in taxes, part of a combination of cuts, taxes and federal money that would fill the projected $2.8 billion hole in the state’s budget through June 2011.

The tax increases are a “menu” of changes, similar to Gov. Chris Gregoire’s proposal, rather than the three-tenths of 1 percent increase in the sales tax proposed by Senate Democrats. A list of the House proposals can be found here.

Hunter said he believes he can get to 50 votes — the bare minimum needed for a majority in the House — easier with his package than Senate Democrats can get to their needed 25 votes with their plan.

WA Lege Day 50: House Dems probably won’t call for sales tax hike

OLYMPIA — House Democrats have not yet released a budget, but early word is that it doesn’t call for an increase in a sales tax. More likely, it’s a menu of smaller taxes to get to the target in extra revenue.

This comes from a well placed source…Gov. Chris Gregoire.

At a press conference this morning to discuss the prospects of drought (extremely high, because of El Nino) Gregoire said she say the House Democrats long-awaited tax plan over the weekend. She wouldn’t steal their thunder by saying what’s in it, but she said she likes it better than the Senate Democrats’ current proposal.

To be fair, though, she likes the Senate Democrats’ spending plan better than the House Democrats, so if the two can just get together, they could pass a budget, she could sign it, the Lege could go home on time…and taxes would go up.

Gregoire said the House plan will have a range of smaller taxes similar to her “menu” approach. Whether it includes the same fresh sheet as her restaurant has — bottled water, candy and gum, soda, gasoline by way of a jump in the toxics tax — is unknown yet. But she continued to argue against an increase in the sales tax, which Senate Democrat have in their plan, saying it would hurt the recovery, particularly the construction industry.

And the drought? Go inside the blog for details on that.

House Dems: No tax package today

OLYMPIA — Democrats in the House of Representatives are not yet ready to describe the “means” to support their “ways.”

When announcing a general fund budget Tuesday that had lists of cuts and a fairly specific number for the amount raised in taxes — $857 million — leaders of the House Ways and Means Committee said the details on the tax package were coming…on Wednesday.

No time listed, so the press corps dutifully showed up in the morning expecting a briefing to be scheduled at any time. Not yet, was the word; we’ll let you know.

“I don’t think they  have a package,” Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt jabbed during a noon meeting with reporters.

Shortly before 2 p.m., word came down that there’d be no announcement on taxes — oops, those are called “revenue packages” now — Wednesday from House Democrats. No time yet, but one has to know that it will happen in at least the next two weeks … because that’s how much longer the Legislature has to get all its work done. And a budget is really Job 1.

To that end, the Senate Ways and Means Committee scheduled four hours of hearings Wednesday on their tax proposals. You can read this morning’s story about Tuesday’s release of budget plans by clicking here.

A chart comparing some aspects of the three working budgets can be found here.


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About this blog

Jim Camden is a veteran political reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Jonathan Brunt is an enterprise reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Kip Hill is a general assignments reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Nick Deshais covers Spokane City Hall for The Spokesman-Review.

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