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Spin Control

Posts tagged: OFM

OFM:Senate budget might not pencil out

OLYMPIA — The state budget office is questioning some parts of the 2013-15 operating budget proposal released earlier this week by the leaders of the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

The budget uses some assumptions that may not be legal, and others that don't have enough information to say whether they are realistic, David Schumacher, director of the Office of Financial Management, said in a letter to Committee Chairman Andy Hill, R-Redmond, and Sen. Jim Hargrove of Hoquiam, the ranking Democrat. 

“There are significant concerns with the structure of this budget, such as reductions to local government programs and our state's safety net,” Schumacher says at the top of a four-page list of questions about proposed decisions on education, health and  human services, natural resources, general government and “non-specific savings.”

The committee passed the budget on Thursday and moved it to the Senate, where it could come up for a debate this afternoon.

Inslee names budget chief

OLYMPIA — Governor-elect Jay Inslee selected the leader of the state Senate's Budget Committee staff as his new budget director.

Inslee told his transition team today that he would appoint David Schumacher as the director of the Office of Financial Management, making him the incoming governor's chief budget adviser.

Schumacher spent the last two years, and from 2003-2008 as the head of the nonpartisan staff for the Senate Ways and Means Committee, that chamber's panel in charge of budgets. He spent the two years away from the committee as director of northwest government affairs for Boeing.

Inslee called him a creative thinker with “unparalleled” experience in fiscal matters.

Fiscal note on I-1185 stands, judge rules

OLYMPIA — The fiscal note on the latest initiative requiring a supermajority in the Legislature for tax increases will remain in the voters pamphlet, even though it is different from a nearly identical initiative that passed in 2010, a judge ruled today.

That might not have much effect in the upcoming election, but could be a point of contention in next year's Legislature if Initative 1185 passes, sponsor Tim Eyman said

The fiscal note prepared by the Office of Financial Management for Initiative 1185 — requiring a two-thirds legislative approval of any tax increase and a legislative vote on fee increases — says passage may cost the state between $22 million and $33 million in lost toll revenues in 2017 and some other costs in other agency fees.

Eyman challenged that assessment, arguing that I-1185 merely continues the initiative voters passed in 2010, so it doesn't change anything. Calling the fiscal note a “gross injustice” stemming from “a complete lack of accountability,” Eyman, who is not an attorney, represented the initiative's sponsors in a hearing on a request to have the fiscal note removed or altered.

I-1185 has the same ballot title as I-1053, he told Thurston County Superior Court James Dixon. It should have the same fiscal note, which in 2010 said I-1053 had no direct fiscal impact.

But since 2010, a pair of attorney general's opinions that looked at I-1053 concluded that the new law could require addiltional authorization by the Legislature for certain fees,  Steve Dietrich, a deputy attorney general said. OFM had to take those opinions into account when it made its assumptions about the effect of continuing the law.

“This isn't the same situation they faced when they wrote (the fiscal note for) 1053,” Dietrich said.

The Legislature might have to authorize new fees, but that doesn't cost anything, Eyman countered. At the very least, the voters pamphlet should contain a line that says the fiscal note is disputed by sponsors, he said.

Eyman's arguments were “largely political” not legal, Dietrich said. State law allows for someone to challenge the wording of an initiative's ballot title, but doesn't  provide a mechanism for challenging the fiscal note for an initiative, he added.

“You simply don't have the power to order OFM to rewrite in the way he would like,” said Dietrich told the judge.

Dixon agreed the order Eyman was seeking, a writ of mandamus, didn't apply to the case. If it had refused to write any fiscal note, that option might be available, but OFM has the discretion on how it prepares a fiscal note, he said. If it came up with conclusions that were “arbitrary and capricious”, the court might also be able to step in.

“It is not arbitrary and capricious to review a law and come up with new conclusions,” Dixon said.

After the hearing, Eyman said he didn't know how much effect the fiscal note will have on voters, and many probably won't study it. “I think voters have seen this issue before, so they're pretty well-educated on it.”

But politicians do pay attention to things like the fiscal note, and Eyman and other initiative supporters will raise the part of the analysis that talks about the Legislature needing to approve at any opportunity during the next session.

The campaign has no plans to spend money on ads to rebut the fiscal note, he said. But the court challenge was important for creating a record of the sponsors' objections, if questions about the fiscal impact come up in debates or interviews.

State liquor monopoly: All in or all out?

OLYMPIA – It’s apparently all in, or all out, for Washington state’s involvement in the liquor business.

After studying two proposals to take over the state’s liquor distribution system, the Office of Financial Management is calling for a pass on both. Voters could still order that system sold, and remove the state’s involvement in wholesale and retail liquor sales, by passing Initiative 1183.

If that measure fails, the system stays as is, at least for a while.

In a letter Wednesday to the Liquor Control Board, OFM Director Marty Brown said the two proposals from private companies to take over the liquor warehousing system “do not represent ‘net positive benefit’ to the state or local governments.” Because of that, OFM officials say, state law doesn’t allow the board to accept either proposal….

To read the rest of this post, go inside the blog.

OFM: Pass on both bids for liquor warehouse

OLYMPIA — After studying two proposals for taking over the state's liquor distribution system, the state Office of Financial Management is calling for a pass on both.

In a letter to the Liquor Control Board, OFM Director Marty Brown says the proposal's “do not represent 'net positive benefit' to the state or local governments.”

Selling the state's liquor warehouse has been a popular proposal in the Legislature, where many members believe the state has no business in the liquor business. Some budget proposals in the last session counted on revenue from the sale of the warehouse to help close the gap between expected revenues and scheduled expenses, but critics questioned whether the revenue estimates were realistic.

Opposition to state control of liquor has generated three ballot initiatives in the last two years, the most recent being Initiative 1183 on the Nov. 8 ballot and would get the state out of the wholesale and retail end of liquor sales

Before I-1183 was filed, the Legislature passed a law requiring a study of the possible financial benefits of selling or leasing the state's warehouse and distribution system, while maintaining its retail stores.  Companies were invited to submit bids, and OFM was directed to examine them and make a recommendation to the Liquor Control Board, which has ultimate authority over the state's booze business.

Only two companies bid. . .

To read more of this post, go inside the blog.

Gregoire wants to reopen state worker contracts

OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire is asking state employees' unions to reopen their contracts and agree to higher health insurance costs.

In a letter to the unions, Office of Financial Management Director Marty Brown cites the projected imbalance of $1.4 billion between projected state revenues and scheduled state expenses in General Fund programs.

“Due to the continuing decline in revenue, the state is requesting that the coalition of unions agree to reooeb the 2011-13 health care benefits agreement in order to negotiate a reduction in the employer premium contribution,” Brown says in the letter.

He acknowledges that unions have made concessions in their current contract, which was approved by the Legislature earlier this year. “However, because of the seemingly unrelenting pressure that the Great Recession has had on revenues and increased caseloads, state employees may be called upon yet again to sacrifice.”

WA has new salary search engine

OLYMPIA — The folks at the Office of Financial Management and Legislative Evaluation and Accountability Program have developed a new website for looking up who makes what in state government.

The website is a follow-up to the release last month of all the people who got their money from the state in 2010, from University of Washington Head Football Coach Steve Sarkisian, who pulled down just under $2 million*, to several folks who were at $0.

It's an interesting site, but we like ours better. For most searches, it's faster. It may also be easier to use, although that could be a function of being in on the discussions to design it. Try both out and decide for yourself.

 

 

* Obligatory disclaimer: Sarkesian's salary, and those of other coaches and athletic department staff connected with UW and Washington State Univeristy,  isn't paid out of state tax dollars, but from revenue generated by ticket sales and other athletic department endeavors. This creates a bit of an apples-to-oranges comparison when lining up his salary with, say, Gov. Chris Gregoire. But it's still a lot of money, regardless of its source.

Moore leaving OFM for Investment Board

OLYMPIA — The state’s top “numbers guy,” Office of Financial Management Director Victor Moore, will be leaving that job to take over as top operator at the State Investment Board.

Moore has served as head of OFM for five years, since Gov. Chris Gregoire first took office in January 2005. He’s been a state official for 30 years, first as a budget officer with Evergreen State College in 1980, a budget analyst for Senate Ways and Means in 1983, and first worked for OFM in 1986 on transportation and capital construction. He served as staff coordinator for the House Appropriations Committee from 1991 through 2004.

Although not a well-known face outside of Olympia, he’s highly regarded by members of both parties in the Capitol. Seldom in front of the cameras, he’s usually close at hand during gubernatorial press conferences and briefings. At those times, when a detail question or a technical aspect of a budget or policy bill comes up, Gregoire will frequently look up and say “Victor.” and have him give the answer.

He will become the job of chief operating officer of the State Investment Board after the session is over. Although this year and last have been particularly difficult budgets, with major cuts last year and an attempt to both cut and raise taxes this year, Moore said that wasn’t a factor in his decision. Good years or bad, he said, the budget is always difficult.

Replacing Moore at OFM will be Gregoire’s legislative director, Marty Brown, who was OFM director from 1999 through 2005.

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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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