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.

Governor to announce new budgeting approach this morning

At 10:30 the Governor will announce a new budgeting process for the 2011-13 budget that expands further on the current Priorities of Government process (POG).

We'll provide an update after Gregoire's press conference.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Linville: reforms underway, more needed

State government needs to realign itself with today’s new economic reality—that’s the message Rep. Kelli Linville (Bellingham) delivered in an op-ed over the weekend to the Bellingham Herald.

The Ways & Means Committee leader notes that reform is actually an ongoing practice in the budget process, although it rarely grabs the headlines. Reforms in recent years for long-term care, childhood vaccine purchasing, business permitting, and the juvenile justice system have sought to wring more value from taxpayer dollars.

That being said, the severity of today’s worldwide economic crisis means reforms must go even further, Linville says. “The Legislature's top priority now is realigning government with today's new economic reality so that it works better for the people we represent,” she writes.

To that end, the Ways & Means Committee is engaged in a substantive reform effort this legislative interim. As we mentioned earlier today, the committee is meeting to discuss reform efforts on education, health care, performance-based contracting, information technology and more. In May, the committee held two reform work sessions (agenda one, agenda two) open to all members of the House, where budget and audit experts presented potential reform methods, and legislators discussed their own reform ideas.

Interested in receiving notice of meeting dates and agendas? Sign up for the committee’s email list here.

Ways & Means meeting now - focus on reform

The House Ways & Means Committee is meeting this afternoon covering a full agenda including the latest revenue projections, an update on agency efforts to increase efficiency, education reform, and a discussion of possible budget reform ideas - fiscal note process, standard approaches to reviewing the budget and agency budget requests, and adding performance measures to the budget.

You can watch it live online at TVW.

Feds in town to talk trade with legislators

Today a federal delegation will brief the state’s economic-policy lawmakers on the National Export Initiative, released earlier this year. Announced by President Obama in this year’s State of the Union address, the plan aims to double trade exports in the next five years.

The initiative will have a significant impact to Washington state, the most trade-dependent state in the nation.

The work session will be a joint meeting of three committees: Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Trade Policy, chaired by state Sen. Paull Shin; House Community and Economic Development and Trade Committee, chaired by state Rep. Phyllis Gutierrez Kenney; and Senate Committee on Economic Development, Trade and Innovation, chaired by state Sen. Jim Kastama.

It's going on now at the Port of Seattle and you can check out the meeting materials online.