Governor should force Legislature's hand on budget
Despite warnings from the Governor that immediate action is needed to balance the budget, Democratic leadership in the Legislature remains uncommitted to a special session when lawmakers are in Olympia next week.
After nearly a year of warnings that the budget adopted last session was unsustainable, it appears some lawmakers still haven't found the will to make the necessary decisions. Only the Senate Republican leadership met the Governor's call for budget recommendations to be provided by yesterday to help lay the ground work for a special session.
Since the dire budget reality is not enough to prod the Legislature into action, the Governor should force lawmakers' hands.
One potential strategy would be for the Governor to call a special session, with or without legislative support, effective Wednesday, December 8. Though such a special session would technically be in effect for 30 days, the Governor could help incentivize an earnest effort by lawmakers to quickly balance the budget by also ordering across-the-board cuts that would take effect Saturday, December 11, unless the Legislature balances the budget itself or provides the Governor the tools to do so.
If they refuse to balance the budget, lawmakers could instead provide more flexibility to the Governor to make discretionary cuts (instead of across-the-board) to eliminate a projected deficit and leave up to a one percent reserve. This would help policy makers avoid the current dilemma of whether to call a special session to deal with future deficits.
The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that Governors in at least 10 states have more flexibility to respond to a budget deficit than Gregoire.
The continued inaction by lawmakers to address the budget deficit indicates a more forceful approach by the Governor may be the only option left.
Filed Under : Spending Cuts