The Washington Legislature will convene Nov. 28 to try to fill a $2 billion shortfall. The ranking House minority leader, Rep. Richard DeBolt, says the House Republican caucus will not support tax increases and proposes a series of measures to fuel job growth.
WITH each new dire revenue forecast, state lawmakers engage in a new round of hand-wringing over the same choices: Do we cut spending or raise taxes? Do we try to keep every state program on life support, or do we adopt meaningful reforms and eliminate those programs state government can no longer afford? Washington lawmakers will be wrestling with these questions yet again on Nov. 28 when they return for a special session to correct another state budget shortfall.
House Republicans have been clear on our budget principles. We believe the Legislature should re-establish the priorities of government, focus on education, public safety and services for the most vulnerable, and balance the budget without raising taxes. That will continue to be our approach until we are certain we have found every efficiency in state government.
Real fiscal discipline is needed, but it addresses only the symptoms of a much larger problem. For too long, the Legislature has ignored the factors contributing to this economic downturn. When it comes to generating tax revenue, state government is its own worst enemy.
The state needs to get the weight of big government off the backs of employers and working families. We need to unleash the power of the private sector to create jobs and get Washington working again. A healthy economy will enhance the prosperity of working people and generate more revenue for state and local government. This is a vastly better approach than trying to raise taxes on people when they can least afford it.
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So when lawmakers convene in November, we propose to balance the budget within existing revenues and adopt a multifaceted jobs-creation package for Washington.
The governor has said job creation can wait until the regular session in January. House Republicans say it can’t. We’ve already waited too long.
House Republicans are asking for four job-creation reforms to be adopted by the Legislature. If enacted, along with a sustainable budget in the upcoming special session, the Legislature could forgo the 60-day regular session scheduled for January 2012. This would save taxpayers more than $1 million by keeping lawmakers home for the remainder of the year and give these four job-creation ideas a chance to work:
First, suspend state growth-management requirements in counties with significant and persistent unemployment. We shouldn’t burden communities with the cost and encumbrance of controlling growth when none is occurring and when those regulations stand in the way of badly needed economic development.
Second, require permit decisions in 90 days. If agencies don’t make a decision on a permit in 90 days, it would be granted. This would add certainty and eliminate unnecessary government delays to significantly stimulate economic activity. Let’s free up those who are ready to put people to work.
Third, place a moratorium on state agency rule making. We applaud the governor’s decision to suspend unnecessary rule making earlier this year. Our proposal would extend the moratorium for three years or until there is evidence of economic recovery.
And fourth, reclassify hydropower as renewable energy. When we sell our inexpensive hydro power to California, it qualifies as renewable. In Washington it does not. Let’s recapture our state’s competitive advantage of offering abundant, affordable clean energy for manufacturers and consumers.
These job-creating reforms won’t cost anything to implement. Most would save taxpayer money and generate new revenues without tax increases. They only require the courage of those who for too long have defended the status quo. We can no longer afford to spare the bureaucracies of big government.
House Republicans offer these ideas as a sincere bipartisan effort to get state government off the roller coaster of failed tax-and-spend budgeting, and to get Washington families working again.
Rep. Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis, is minority leader in the state House of Representatives.