State Senator Andy Hill knows that this year it’s the turn of the Democrat-controlled House to write the first state budget draft, but saw the need last week to set the record straight about one thing before the legislature started – that the state has enough money to meet its basic and constitutional needs. So, the chairman of the Senate’s budget-writing Ways and Means Committee Hill issued a 2015 budget overview, labeling the idea that Washington faces a huge budget deficit a “myth” propagated by Jay Inslee and others to satisfy their desire to raise taxes to support a bigger government.
Hill debunked the liberal myth about the state’s projected “deficit” by using three basic factsabout the state’s financial picture.
First, “Washington can afford to continue all existing services, including increased caseloads and related costs, plus fund required enhancements that emerged since enactment of the previous budget.” Hill uses numbers issued by Inslee’s own budget office to show that the state will have $1 billion in revenue remaining after paying for “all the activities it currently does, including accounting for the increased caseloads and costs in providing those services for the next two years” and “all known required costs that have popped up since the end of last session, primarily pertaining to mental health enhancements, fighting wildfires, and federally-mandated new drug treatment for low- income individuals.”
Second, “After continuing current services, the state is projected to have enough revenues to fully finance the next statutorily required McCleary enhancement, plus a salary increase for K-12 staff.” The salary increase for all K-12 staff, as required by the often-suspended by legally-required Initiative 732, is projected to cost $235 million, “equating to slightly over a 3% across-the-board salary increase over the next two years.” The next statutorily required McCleary enhancement—an increase in state funding for districts’ materials and supplies costs—is projected to cost $752 million. The leftover $1 billion is enough to cover the costs. Hill writes that the reality puts in “perspective exactly the state’s fiscal situation, which is a far cry from what a citizen would consider to be a deficit.”
Third, “Further policy enhancements, with the exception of I-1351, are not required by law and, if pursued, need to be evaluated and prioritized with existing expenditures.” Hill specifically points to the collective bargaining agreements negotiated by Inslee at a cost of half a billion dollars to taxpayers, the teacher-union sponsored Initiative 1351’s $4 billion price tag, additional mental health costs that Inslee projected at $50 million, and meeting McCleary’s all-day kindergarten and K-3 class size components in the upcoming biennia, rather than in the next budget cycle as demanded by the state Supreme Court (but a line item cost of $556 million in Inslee’s budget).
Liberals were quick to attack Sen. Hill’s budget overview. Leftist think-tank Washington State Budget and Policy Center attempted to cast Hill’s analysis as a budget proposal, deciding to ignore the fact that it was an overview of the state’s basic financial situation. The Budget and Policy Center—which has consistently backed Inslee’s cry for higher taxes, and has long supported the State Democrats call for a state income tax —re-iterated the myth that the state cannot meet its obligations without higher taxes. However, the “think” tank weakens the strength of its arguments by justifying tax hikes with non-essential costs—the very expenses Hill singled out as policy enhancements rather than required obligations.
The Budget and Policy Center’s rebuttal in favor of half a billion in state employee pay hikes is perhaps the most concerning—and telling—aspect of the Left’s budget myth. The think-tank claims that state employees have not received pay raises for seven years. The lack of pay increases—the Budget and Policy Center insists—hurts retention rates for state employees. Both claims are blatantly false.
The fact is the majority of state employees have received “step increases” in their salary—an automatic increase in pay after a set amount of time as a state employee – something that any private sector worker would call a pay raise. In fact, a recent study found that state employee compensation is “not out of line with prevailing private sector rates.” Additionally, Inslee’s own Office of Financial Management found that “our current compensation market position has not adversely impacted employee retention, turnover or our ability to hire.”
The Budget and Policy Center’s manipulation of facts in support of the myth that our state faces a budget deficit is the strategy liberals seem to utilize every budget cycle. Democrats know that they cannot get their way with the facts, so they need to manufacture a crisis. State law does not require Inslee’s state employee pay hikes, but pay hikes would go along way toward paying off state employee unions for their generous campaign donations.
Eastside Sanity says
Liberals don’t think, they just follow their Dear Leader Jay Inslees lies & deceit.
There is never enough of other peoples money for liberals. It’s always more, more, more..