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WA Lege Day 48: Senate passes budget

OLYMPIA – With the bare minimum votes needed and debate over taxes yet to come, Senate Democrats passed a general fund budget Saturday designed to close the state’s $2.8 billion budget gap.
Even without a firm decision on which taxes to add or alter to raise more than $900 million in extra revenue, the combination of programs cut, reserves tapped and federal funds gave almost everyone in the chamber something to dislike.
Sen. Margarita Prentice, D-Seattle, called it an ugly budget for an ugly time. And as the chairwoman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, it’s her budget.
Senate Republicans swung between complaints that the proposal doesn’t cut enough in tough economic times, and cut programs that do valuable work that they support.
Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, who is one of the staunchest opponents of any tax increase and among the most vociferous against Democrats’ decision to suspend the super-majorities needed to enact such hikes – said the proposal was wrong to cut the Frances Haddon Morgan Center in Bremerton for children and adults with autism, whom he said were among the most vulnerable in society.
“Some of these cuts in this budget are just too severe and too painful to people in the community,” Benton said.
Sen. Mike Carrell, R-Lakewood, called the more than $800 million in budget cuts “token savings”. The initial proposal didn’t cut enough, and money for individual members’ projects got added back during committee hearings at the rate of “a million here, a million there.”
“We are fiddling while Rome burns,” he complained.
No, said Senate Majority Leader, Lisa Brown, D-Spokane: “On the contrary, senator, we are passing a budget. We are moving the process forward.”
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Wa Lege Day 43: Senate takes up I-960

OLYMPIA — The state Senate is taking up the suspension of various provisions of Initiative 960 again this evening.

The House has sent the suspension back, and it means a straight up or down vote.

Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, said the House did one good thing, which was adding back the notification provisions of the tax impacts of any proposals.

But the rest of it is still bad, he said. It still should have the requirements that every legislators record on tax votes be printed in the voters pamphlet, and the advisory vote in November of any tax that’s increased.

“Every legislator should welcome the advice of the people,” said Benton, who recently announced his campaign for U.S. Senate.

Republicans can’t amend the bill. So debate has begun.

Spend it now or spend it later…

The National Conference of State Legislatures has surveyed all the states to see how quickly they’re spending their federal economic stimulus money - some are spending it all to close their state budget gaps in the current fiscal year, leaving nothing for the following year and prompting fears about state budgets “facing a cliff” when the federal money runs out. Idaho falls in the middle of the pack of the 25 states that have responded to the survey so far, spending 54 percent of its stimulus money in fiscal year 2010, which started July 1. Washington was a bit more cautious, spending 33 percent. Highest on the list was Texas, which is spending 96 percent of its stimulus money in the current year; at the bottom is Alaska, spending only 3 percent. More here at Eye on Boise

Question: If you got a big chunk of money tomorrow, would you spend it now or spend it later?

Spend it now or spend it later…

The National Conference of State Legislatures has surveyed all the states to see how quickly they’re spending their federal economic stimulus money - some are spending it all to close their state budget gaps in the current fiscal year, leaving nothing for the following year and prompting fears about state budgets “facing a cliff” when the federal money runs out. Idaho falls in the middle of the pack of the 25 states that have responded to the survey so far, spending 54 percent of its stimulus money in fiscal year 2010, which started July 1. Washington was a bit more cautious, spending 33 percent. Highest on the list was Texas, which is spending 96 percent of its stimulus money in the current year; at the bottom is Alaska, spending only 3 percent.

“Whether they welcomed or snubbed the federal economic stimulus package, state lawmakers took advantage of the bailout dollars this year to help patch their state’s shaky finances,” reports Stateline.org. “Now, as they start thinking ahead to next year’s budget and the 2010 elections, lawmakers are increasingly apprehensive about what will happen when the stimulus money dries up. They predict even deeper cuts in services, higher taxes and raids on rainy day funds to balance budgets.”