Even if Washington state voters approve a half-cent sales tax hike, the gap between state spending and revenue will continue to grow in the years ahead without major reforms, according to an analysis on the Washington State Wire.
No, this is not a report cranked out by the Republican Party. It relies mostly on numbers-crunching from State Sen. Jim Kastama, D-Puyallup.
I was alerted to it (via Facebook) by State Rep. Jeff Morris, the Democrat who represents the 40th District that includes a portion of Whatcom County and Bellingham.
The report does a good job of identifying the problems, but to me it seems cloudy on potential solutions. Kastama recommends eliminating voter-approved reductions in K-12 class size–but notes that those reductions mostly have not been funded. If that’s the case, how does eliminating them save money?
UPDATE: Here’s an explanation of the impact of eliminating the class size reduction measures from Jason Mercie, director of the Center for Government Reform at the Washington Policy Center. His emailed remarks are in italics:
Re eliminating I-728/732 and saving money; note the impact the measures have on the six-year budget outlook released by OFM: http://www.governor.wa.gov/priorities/reform/outlook.pdf
According to the Governor, with I-728/732 included in the budget in future years the state will continue to face multi-billion dollar shortfalls. Without them, the budget is projected to be balanced in future years assuming 4.5% per year revenue growth.
Since funding was not identified for I-728/732 (other than surplus funds) when originally adopted and the measures were subsequently suspended during tough budget times, voters were asked in 2004 to approve I-884 and in 2010 to approve I-1098 to pay in-part for the policies of I-728 and I-732. Both measures were overwhelming rejected statewide.
Another problem mentioned in the Washington State Wire analyis is the rising cost of health care. You probably heard about that. What is the legislature supposed to do about this problem? (I’m not saying they can’t do anything. I just want to know what they might do.)
The Business Roundtable chimes in with a suggestion that the state increase its rainy day fund. Great idea. And the money for that comes from…?