OLYMPIA - Yesterday (Wednesday) the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives passed a supplemental operating budget. The proposal passed on a party-line vote.
It reduces spending by $407 million and leaves $450 million in reserves for the remainder of the 2011-13 biennium.
Representatives Bruce Chandler, Charles Ross and David Taylor voted against the budget. The trio said they supported an alternative proposal by House Republicans, which would have reduced spending $817 million and left $625 million in the state's reserves.
"Voters have spoken clearly against tax increases, and yet this budget strips money from cities and counties while trying to force them to increase taxes. This budget pushes payments to school districts into the next biennium. When the legislature did that in the 1980s, it took 18 years to pay it off," said Chandler, R-Granger.
Rep. Charles Ross, R-Naches, said the House Republicans' budget would have been a more sustainable budget that truly prioritizes the core services of the government.
Chandler said, "Though we often hear about 'One Washington,' the budget also manages to reduce funding to critical access hospitals only within the Republican legislative districts. This is the most blatant political move that will hurt rural communities' access to urgent care. The House majority's top priority is protecting the Olympia bureaucracy at the expense of direct services to our constituents."
Ross said, Republicans showed how they can balance the budget without raising taxes by funding education first, protecting the most vulnerable and protecting public safety.
"Not only did we leave more in reserves for the remainder of this biennium, but we also made substantial changes to government entitlement programs in order to reduce our level of spending into the future."
During the amendatory process in the House this past Tuesday, Republicans proposed three amendments to restore funding at a higher level for employment assistance for people with developmental disabilities, mental health services and long-term care for seniors.
Taylor said the Democrats' budget fails to prioritize spending, uses gimmicks to push much of the problem into next year's budget and relies heavily on higher fees and potential tax increases at the local level.
"It's a continuation of the failed policies and failed leadership that has attributed to our budget problems for years," said Taylor, R-Moxee. "House Republicans offered a realistic spending plan that prioritized and protected education, public safety and services for our most vulnerable citizens."
Taylor continued, "We've demonstrated what a responsible, all-priorities budget looks like. But what we're seeing today is not it. Instead, this budget focuses on politics over priorities, gimmicks over sustainability, and more taxes and fees over more courage. Our hardworking taxpayers deserve better."
Ross said, "We have a responsibility to balance the budget within current revenues. We should not postpone school funding in order to balance the budget."
He continued, "We don't need to strip $95 million from local governments and then leave it to them to increase taxes on their citizens. We simply need to set priorities and reduce funding to the rest of government so we can put our spending in line with our revenues."
The three Yakima Valley lawmakers said they would have supported a budget proposal introduced by House Republicans. Read more about that proposal online at http://houserepublicans.wa.gov.
The 60-day session is scheduled to adjourn Thursday, March 8.