On January 9, the Washington State Legislature will come back to session. On their busy agenda is rectifying the horrendous $2 billion budget deficit that they delayed reforming in the last legislative session. While our budget crisis may seem like the fault of an ineffective legislature, the fault lies in the hands of Governor Gregoire.
To understand why Gov. Gregoire is to blame for our current predicament you must look back to the inactions of this past fall. In September, the Governor acknowledged the state had a $2 billion budget problem and stated she would call a special session at the end of November for the legislature to solve the problem. This resulted in the legislature approving a plan that made $480 million adjustments through a combination of cuts, transfers and delayed payments. The legislature delayed acting on the remaining $1.5 billion problem till January 2012. This delay violates Washington law, which requires the governor to implement across-the-board cuts if the legislature fails to act.
What this all boils down to is that due to Gov. Gregoire’s failure to lead, Washington State has ended the last three fiscal years with a deficit for the first time in history.
To remedy the current budget crisis, Gov. Gregoire must issue an immediate Executive Order for across the board cuts totaling $2 billion that would go into effect in 30 days if the legislature does not come up with equivalent savings by that time.
Governor Gregoire and the Washington state legislature also need to return to the performance based budget model that was so successful in 2003. Performance based budgeting is based upon priority based outcome measures which are linked to the well-defined core functions of state government.
Governor Gregoire abandoned former Governor Locke’s priority of government (POG) model which was a performance based budged in order to return to business as usual. This was a fatally flawed decision that will be felt in the taxpayers’ wallets for years to come.
The time for political promises and empty, ineffective budget ideas are over. Gov. Gregoire must take action now and begin to lead Washington State out of the red.
[photo credit: WSDOT]