December 13, 2006 in City

State rainy-day fund proposed

By The Spokesman-Review
 
J BART RAYNIAK photo

Washington state Gov. Chris Gregoire visits the Central Valley High School entrepreneurship class Tuesday before making an announcement about her proposed rainy day fund. She talked with the students about her life as the governor.
(Full-size photo)

Rainy day fund would:

“Start off with a deposit of $128 million the first year and a second year deposit of $134 million as part of the Governor’s budget proposal

“Add future automatic deposits of 1 percent of the state’s general revenue, or about $150 million, each year

“Be constitutionally protected so that it could only be used with a 60 percent vote of the state Legislature

“Be available by a simple majority vote of the Legislature during a natural disaster or if the Governor declared a state of emergency or during a recession, when employment growth is less than 1 percent

Gov. Chris Gregoire told students at Central Valley High School on Tuesday that she is proposing a state constitutional amendment that would deposit hundreds of millions of dollars into a state rainy-day fund for possible future economic downturns.

Gregoire talked to Robin Barnhart’s entrepreneurship class before she and state Sen. Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, addressed the student body.

“I’m announcing it here today at your school because I think it’s consistent with what you’re learning in DECA. If you want to be a good business person, if you want to be a good family person, if you want to do what you should do so that you have some money when the tough times come and not spend it all when you’ve got some money, then you need to put some money away,” said Gregoire.

Gregoire’s plan would work like a family’s savings account, fed with automatic deposits during good times and tapped to maintain state services when the economy sours.

“We know that the economy will continue to run in cycles, but our state budget does not have to mirror those booms and busts,” Gregoire said.

A constitutional amendment would have to be approved by both the Legislature this spring and voters at next November’s general election. But Gregoire said Tuesday that she’ll push legislative budget writers to make an immediate down payment: $128 million this year and $134 million next year.

It’s an opportune time, since the state now expects to collect nearly $2 billion more than expected over the next two years, due to the healthy economy.

Central Valley senior Dan Weller wanted to know why the governor chose to make her announcement at the school.

“It’s very, very rare that anyone suggests that we ought to amend the constitution, and that’s as it should be. We understand it this is the first time at Central Valley that a governor has come here. We thought, why not make a little history and make the announcement of the constitutional amendment right here with you at Central Valley,” said Gregoire. “It’s kind of fun to be here and make sure that you’re the ones who hear it first and are a part of all of it rather than going to a press conference in Olympia.”

Conservatives have long pushed for such a move in Olympia. It was also a campaign promise of Gregoire’s.

“I’m excited the governor has decided to lend her support to the constitutionally protected rainy day fund,” Sen. Joseph Zarelli, R-Ridgefield, said in a joint news release with Gregoire. The move, he said, “makes perfect sense.”


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