Thursday, June 24, 2010

New economic reality prompts new budgeting process

This morning Governor Gregoire rolled out a new approach for "Transforming Washington's Budget."

The 20-page plan is worth checking out as it lays out a more detailed set of questions that agencies will have to answer if they want funding for the services and programs they currently provide. The questions are grouped into the areas of efficiency, performance and fiscal responsibility.

Niki Reading from TVW was there for the Governor's press conference. She reports the Governor's new approach is prompted by the slow economic recovery and its anticipated long-term impact on our budget, starting with a projected $3 billion shortfall for the 2011-13 budget. In Gregoire's opening remarks she said:
"We are seeing hopeful signs in our economic recovery but quite frankly, we are also seeing that things are not going to get back to the way they were anytime soon.”
The plan lays out some major reform ideas to be considered including the privatization of our state ferry system and moving more people with developmental disabilities from state-operated residential centers to home- and community-based settings.

The Governor has created a committee to provide input on these and other budget ideas. A cross-section of right- and left-leaning economists are on the roster, as well as chief budget writers from all four legislative caucus including House Ways & Means Chair Kelli Linville.

The Governor's budget office also plans to engage the public with a series of budget hearings across the state. The first is in Tacoma on July 19. Additional dates and locations will be announced soon.

Gregoire made an important point that this is not the first stab at major budget reforms, but it is a continuation of re-assessing how we "invest scarce dollars among so many competing demands." The 20-page plan includes numerous examples of spending reforms and efficiencies put in place during the previous legislative session including transferring certain state parks to local governments, cutting back on health care coverage for low-income families and consolidating correctional institutions.