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Idaho's two senators both were in the minority today, as the Senate voted 64-36 in favor of a bipartisan budget deal that President Barack Obama is expected to sign into law. The deal, brokered by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., sets federal spending on domestic and defense programs and averts the threat of a government shutdown for the next two years; it makes modest changes in spending levels, replaces about $63 billion in automatic sequester budget cuts, and adds new fees on airline passengers and increases federal workers’ pension contributions.
Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo called the deal “the wrong direction for our fiscal policy and our economy,” and Idaho Sen. Jim Risch called it “a step backward.” The deal leaves in place the bulk of the $1 trillion in sequester cuts through 2021, but eases an especially harsh set of cuts scheduled to hit in 2014 and 2015 on the Pentagon, domestic agencies and Medicare providers. All 53 Democrats in the Senate voted yes, along with two independents and nine Republicans; all 36 “no” votes came from Republicans. The pact earlier cleared the House overwhelmingly, with majorities from both parties supporting it. Here are Crapo and Risch’s full statements on their votes:
“This deal unfortunately falls into the same promises of future budget cuts that never materialize, and then raising new revenue to offset increasing spending. The bottom line is that Americans end up paying more to justify bigger spending by Congress. It is the wrong direction for fiscal policy and our economy; that is why I could not support the agreement.”
“This deal raises federal spending at a time when we should be cutting spending. Under present law, with the sequester, the federal government is actually cutting its spending for the first time in decades. This deal reverses that with a promise it will cut spending later. The deal also provides for having to borrow about one-third of every dollar spent. This is all simply irresponsible. In addition, along with many other problems, this deal cuts retirement benefits previously promised to veterans. This is just wrong. The bill that passed the Senate today is a step backward and I could not support it.”
Click below for a look at the deal's likely impact on the U.S. economy, from AP economics writer Josh Boak in Washington, D.C.
OLYMPIA — There was very little information on the 2013-15 operating budget that was announced Thursday, and only “broad-brush” details emerged during the day.
Late last night, however, the Legislature got the whole enchilada up on the budget website. Plenty of time for everyone to read it before this morning's 8:30 a.m. hearing in the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
Not to worry, though, Chairman Andy Hill assured folks who showed up bright and early for the hearing. The budget is really just a “compilation of bills that have already been heard in this committee” — with the exception of a couple of tax exemptions for renewable energy projects.
Lobbyists who had gathered for what is likely to be their last big committee hearing of 2012 were mostly complimentary of the latest incarnation of a spending plan, which does not remove most of the tax credits and exemptions for businesses that some legislators had targeted at the beginning of the year.
Inslee and legislative leaders say there's a budget deal.
“State government will continue to operate,” Inslee said.
The deal should be passed by both houses and on his desk by 5 p.m. today, Inslee said in a brief announcement attended by a bipartisan group of 10 legislators. He released no details of the agreement, but legislative leaders later offered only some broad outlines of the deal, either in meetings with their rank and file members or to the press.
Inslee goes up for a rebound last January in pickup game at governor's mansion.
OLYMPIA — The Legislature has until Sunday night to pass a budget that would stave off a partial state government shutdown, but the impasse will keep Gov. Jay Inslee out of Hoopfest this weekend.
An avid basketball player who arranged a pick-up game on Inauguration Day between his swearing in and the ball, Inslee put together a team last year when he was on the campaign trail. He had promised a contingent from the Spokane-area chambers of commerce that he'd bring a team to Hoopfest this year and vowed to double the wins from 2012… to two.
But that was in January, when it seemed like the Legislature had plenty of time in its 105-day regular session to agree on the 2013-15 operating budget. One regular session and 1.5 special sessions later, that budget deal remains elusive. If that deal is reached, both chambers will have to pass it and Inslee sign it before midnight Sunday to give the state the authority to spend money on certain programs and pay wages and benefits for many state workers.
“He is not going to be leaving town this weekend,” spokeswoman Jaime Smith said.
Team Inslee would have been down two players. State Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane, was on the roster and he, too, is stuck in Olympia. They didn't sign up for the tournament, Smith said.
OLYMPIA — Budget negotiators reported worked late into the night Monday — or early into the morning Tuesday, depending on various accounts — but had no deal to report at the start of the legislative day.
A new word of warning was being sounded, however: It takes time to prepare a budget of about 400 pages after an agreement is reached, including typing, printing, proofing and revising, then having it presented to the legislators, and subjected to votes in both houses where it might be amended. How much time varies a bit, depending on who is making the estimate.
But without an agreement by Wednesday, there might not be enough time to get all of that done before midnight Sunday, when the current fiscal year ends and the new fiscal year starts. The budget is what gives the state the authority to spend money on many of its programs, and pay salaries for many of its employees in that new fiscal year. Hence the worry of a partial government shutdown.
The House is voting on a serious of bills designed to improve state transportation projects. Bills to require permits be issued faster, construction errors be reported more promptly and have the department reported major changes to the Office of Financial Management passed with huge margins.
Inslee predicts budget agreement by end of Monday.
OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee said legislators are could reach an agreement on the 2013-15 operating budget by the end of the day.
“The current state of negotiations gives me confidence that agreement is imminent,” Inslee told reporters at a 2:30 p.m. press conference. “I'm more confident than I was at 9 o'clock this morning.”
Legislative leaders have come up with a “significant change”, which, Inslee said “I won't be able to share with you.”
But those changes have created a way the state can meet its mandate to improve public education and preserve the safety net, he said.
Inslee spoke slightly more than an hour after state agencies began sending temporary layoff notices to some employees who would be told not to show up for work next Monday if the Legislature doesn't pass and Inslee sign the 2013-15 operating budget. About 26,000 workers, out of the 59,000 or so in state employ, would be subject to layoff because the budget gives the state the legal authority to spend money on programs and salaries.
The Legislature was unable to agree on a budget during its regular 105-day session or the 30-day special session that followed. It is now on Day 13 of its second special session. In recent days, some legislative leaders have made predictions about a deal being reached that proved overly optimistic and Inslee was asked why the public should think this was any different.
“This is the first time I have said there has been very substantial progress in negotiations,” he replied
OLYMPIA — Legislative negotiators have reached a tentative agreement on a plan to cut hundreds of millions from the state's budget through the end of June. It could get a vote in the Senate on Friday morning.
The bill reportedly has the support of Democrats and Republicans in the Senate, and House Democrats. House Republicans are likely to vote no because it doesn't cut enough from Basic Health and the Disability Lifeline programs.
Republican leaders of both chambers acknowledged the budget agreement at a noon press conference. Although a copy of the bill is not yet available, Sen. Joe Zarelli of Ridgefield, the top Republican on the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said it would tighten up on qualifications for the Basic Health plan which provides state-supported health care to low income residents, reduce the income limits for families enrolling kids into the Children's Health Program, and reduce cash grants while still providing housing vouchers and some health care to participants in the Disability Lifeline.
Zarelli described it as “not enough and too late, but it's something.”
It has some retroactive cuts to K-12 school funding, which will cost it GOP support in the House, Rep. Gary Alexander of Olympia, top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee: “We can't go there.”
House Republicans also wanted lower income limits on the Basic Health program and the end of all cash grants on Disability Lifeline participants.
But unless they can pull in a significant number of House Democrats, the proposal seems likely to pass, through a non-amendable conference committee report, that will hit the Senate floor Friday.