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Dems, GOP not that far apart on House supplemental budget

OLYMPIA - Washington House Democrats released their 2014 supplemental operating budget proposal yesterday (Wednesday). House Republicans say the budget will increase spending for the 2013-15 biennium by $173 million, including a net of $82 million in policy level increases.

The proposal, according to Republicans, would leave $272 million in ending fund reserves for the 2013-15 biennium and just $28 million for the 2015-17 biennium.

The spending plan, say GOP lawmakers, is expected to be below the state expenditure limit by $1 million in fiscal year 2014, and $14 million in fiscal year 2015.

In response to the budget proposal, Rep. Bruce Chandler (R-Granger) - the ranking Republican on the House Appropriations Committee - issued a statement to the press.

“While it looks like the budget proposed by House Democrats includes a small amount of new revenue and fund-shifts, it doesn’t appear to rely on the massive fund-sweeps or tax increases we’ve seen in years past.

“This is good news for taxpayers and for the stability of future state budgets,” Chandler said.

The Granger lawmaker said the differences between the House and Senate supplemental budgets are not as far apart as legislators have seen in previous years.

“From the standpoint of living within our means, crafting budgets that are sustainable and prioritizing state spending, they are actually very close,” said Chandler. “I wouldn’t go so far as to say they are just cosmetic differences, but they certainly shouldn’t cause the legislature to work beyond the 60-day regular session,” he continued.

Chandler did note that any effort to significantly increase spending for schools, per the “McCleary” ruling, should be done when lawmakers write the next two-year budget, not in a supplemental budget year.

“The one thing we all as budget writers need to be careful of is buying each other off. We can’t just take one list of ‘wants’ from the Senate and combine it with another list of ‘wants’ from the House,” said

Chandler.

“That kind of ‘negotiating’ doesn’t serve the citizens of Washington and in the past has led to problems as state budgets grew far beyond what the taxpayers could afford.

“In the end, we need more money for our ending fund reserve to help protect against any downturn in the economy.

“I think most families and employers in our state recognize our economy is very slowly starting to turn around but by no means are we out of the woods yet. Having some restraint and saving a little more in case of unforeseen circumstances seems the prudent thing to do,” Chandler added.

Chandler explained that once the two budgets are passed out of their respective chambers the real budget work can begin.

“Any seat at the negotiating table I have will be used to emphasize House Republican priorities of funding education first, public safety, protecting the most vulnerable and adopting state budgets that are transparent, sustainable and accountable to the taxpayers.”

Gov. Jay Inslee weighed in on the 2014 House Democrats’ supplemental budget, as well, saying it “…goes further than the Senate’s in addressing our constitutional basic education obligations.”

“While I would like to see a bigger K-12 investment, it is significant that we all agree we must take additional action this year,” Inslee said.

Inslee, too, commended House Finance Chairman Reuven Carlyle for putting forward a separate plan for closing tax breaks to improve early learning programs and restore cost-of-living raises for teachers.

“I look forward to working with the legislature in reaching a final budget agreement,” Inslee said.

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