Responsible and Thoughtful Budgeting
A major function of the Legislature is managing state revenue and spending. The most responsible budgeting strategy involves preventative measures that reduce the need for social welfare programs and encourage individuals to be self-sufficient members of society. Resources for social programs should be directed toward protecting vulnerable populations.
The Operating Budget is by far the largest of the three state budgets and funds most aspects of state government, including state employee salaries, pensions, K-12 and Higher Education operations, social service programs, and much more. During times of recession, state revenue decreases due to reduced economic activity, yet the demand on this budget only increases as folks find themselves unemployed. Long-term economic planning is the responsible way to ensure services are stabilized and jobs are protected. This means fully funding the Budget Stabilization Account (Rainy Day Fund). Last biennium, $700 million was diverted from the Rainy Day Fund in an alarming and precedent-setting technical maneuver.
For too long, the Capital Budget has been a catch-all of public and private construction projects. Currently, this budget includes state, local government, and private construction projects. I propose reducing state debt by changing the way we approach this budget.
State-owned projects, such as higher education facilities, state-owned buildings, and state lands, should continue to be fully funded by the state.
Local projects for cities, counties and other local authorities should shift exclusively to a low-interest loan program similar to the Public Works Trust Fund. This ensures that a) local taxpayers are paying for their own projects, b) low-interest financing is accessible for rural communities, c) state debt is reduced by downsizing the scope of the bond-funded capital budget, and d), local jurisdictions are incentivized to plan appropriately for their infrastructure needs in absence of state grant programs.
Private-purpose construction grants should be extremely limited. At a minimum, claw-back provisions should be attached to those grants to provide for cost recovery should those state-funded capital improvements be sold or repurposed at a later date.
This budget, funded primarily by the gas tax, is responsible for transportation activities including construction, maintenance, and operation of state highways. A robust transportation infrastructure is critical to the communities of our region and state for economic development and counted among the basic functions of government. Washington should focus on finding efficiencies, controlling costs, and increasing the quality of our roads and bridges.