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Majority rules? Not this time.

Posted by Andy Nicholas at May 25, 2011 07:20 PM |
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Yesterday, with a majority of members voting “Yea” (yes), the State House of Representatives passed a budget for the 2011-2013 biennium containing massive cuts to core public services like health care and education.  Yet hours later, a measure that would reign-in wasteful spending on a tax break for out-of-state banks to help fund K-3 education failed on the House Floor, even though it too received a majority vote.  How was the House able to cut one form of state spending with a majority vote but not another? The culprit is Initiative 1053.

Initiative 1053 and its predecessor I-960 have exacerbated the effects of the recession in our state by creating a distorted and irrational state budget process. Especially during times of crisis, it is imperative that all forms of state spending be transparently scrutinized and prioritized by policymakers.  However, by mandating a super majority (two-thirds) legislative vote for any action that increases state tax revenues, I-1053 effectively prohibits lawmakers from carefully examining state spending on special tax breaks. As a result, throughout the Great Recession elected officials have relied on excessive and on economically damaging cuts to health care, education, public safety, and other core public structures in order to balance the state budget.

The current state budget agreement vividly demonstrates this troubling dynamic.  As we noted yesterday, painful cuts to basic public services account for some 90 percent of proposed actions to address the $5 billion shortfall , the difference between projected tax revenues and the amount needed to maintain basic levels of services in the coming 2011-13 biennium.

Senator Ed Murray recently introduced legislation that would give voters the chance to create a more balanced and rational budget process in our state. Senate Bill 5944 would allow policymakers to modify state spending on narrow tax breaks via a simple majority vote of the legislature, if approved by voters on the November ballot. With only a few hours left until the end of the legislative session, it is unlikely that voters will be given the opportunity to make this important correction.

Related research:

Opponents of Reform Lean on Illogical Justification for Tax Breaks

Every Dollar Counts: Why It's time for Tax Expenditure Reform

 

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HIGHLIGHTS

Watch the Budget Matters Plenary 

View the Budget Matters 2016 conference plenary panel, "What's at Stake in the 2017-2019 Budget: Funding McCleary and Beyond," on TVW. Moderated by Ann Dornfeld of KUOW with a budget overview by our own Andy Nicholas, the panel features Nathan Gibbs-Bowling, the 2016 Washington State Teacher of the Year; Lew Moore of the Washington Research Council; Roxana Norouzi of OneAmerica; and Sen. Christine Rolfes. The plenary starts after a brief intro by Executive Director Misha Werschkul and an intro video by Gov. Inslee.

Our Legislative Agenda

Our agenda for the 2015-2017 biennium calls for an equitable, sustainable revenue system in addition to state investments that: promote a world-class education system; sustain a strong middle class; produce living-wage jobs, and ensure that all Washingtonians have equal opportunity to get ahead. 

Testimonies in Olympia

We testified in support of a number of important bills during the 2016 legislative session. Take a look:

  • Our testimony (at the 23:23 minute mark) on the House Bill that would take a two-generation approach to preventing poverty 
  • Our testimony (at the 1:54:09 mark) on the House bill focused on aerospace-related tax breaks
  • Our House testimony (at the 9:25 mark) and Senate testimony (at the 1:44:54 mark) on the two-generation approach to poverty prevention bill 

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