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Spin Control

Hill: No pay raise if budget is late

OLYMPIA -- Sen. Andy Hill has some ideas to speed up the budgeting process that may not endear him to his colleagues. Everyone else who waits on the Legislature to cobble together a budget might cheer them, however.

The Redmond Republican who will repeat last year's role as head of the Senate Ways and Means Committee issued his latest "Windows on the Budget" missive that suggests legislators and their campaigns should feel it in the pocketbook if they don't pass a budget in the regular session.

They should not get any raise that is approved for them by the Citizens Salary Commission if they don't pass a biennial operating budget in the 105-day session that is supposed to adopt a two-year spending plan, Hill said. They'd get their old salary, but no pay bump.

Interesting idea, considering they needed two special sessions to come up with a budget last year and an extra 30 days in 2011.  But it wouldn't have been much of an incentive in those years, because legislators' pay has been at the same level -- $42,106 -- since 2008.

Another suggestion might be a bigger incentive, and is based on a lesson from last year. No campaign fund-raising for incumbents until the budget is passed. . . 

. . . There was a two-week break last year between the end of the regular session and the start of what turned out to be the first special session. Hill called this a "fund-raising loophole" that violates the spirit of the law that was set up to separate legislating from campaigning.

"It's no secret that this fundraising loophole was a primary reason for the governor calling a two-week break between the conclusion of the regular session and the start of the special session, as certain officials wanted to raise funds for elections," he said.

True enough. With the control of the Senate teetering on a few off-year elections, primarily the Jan Angel v. Nathan Schlicher race in Thurston and Kitsap counties, candidates took advantage of the two-week window. Angel raised more than $161,000 and Schlicher nearly $67,000, according to Public Disclosure Commission reports.

For good measure, Hill said, a governor shouldn't be able to raise money then, or until the budget is signed, which can be up to 20 days after the session ends. That wouldn't have crimped Gov. Jay Inslee last year. PDC records show he didn't raise any money between his inauguration and July 9, more than a week after he signed the budget on June 30. Of course 2015 could be another story, with re-election only about a year and a half away.

One other suggestion is not new, but makes so much sense it's hard to argue with: Move up the date of the revenue forecast for budget years by a month. Everyone knows that the serious work on the budget it done after the last revenue forecast. In odd-numbered years when the session is 105 days long and the biennial budget is written, the forecast comes out in mid March; in  even-numbered years like this, with 60-day sessions, the forecast comes out in mid February, because the session would be over if they waited another month. Why not come release the forecast on Feb. 20 every year, Hill said. ]

A bill to do that passed the Senate last year, but didn't make much of a ripple in the House. 

Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981 and retired in 2021. He is currently the political and state government correspondent covering Washington state.

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