Governor Chris Gregoire will call a special session of the Legislature beginning the Monday after Thanksgiving to deal with Washington’s latest revenue shortfall, her office confirmed this morning. The session could go for as long as thirty days.
“Congressional gridlock, the European debt crisis and high unemployment continue to take their toll on consumer confidence and our state’s economy,” Gregoire said in a statement. “Once again, we are facing a budget shortfall and once again I’m calling the Legislature back into special session to address the state’s budget.”
“My only option is across-the-board cuts, and that option is unacceptable. Solving this budget crisis will require the Legislature to act.”
“We are committed to making the most of the coming weeks to help find solutions,” Senate Majority Lisa Leader Lisa Brown and Senator Ed Murray said in a joint statement. “Before we reach a special session, we will work with the governor as she develops an initial proposal to bridge the budget gap.”
“And we will continue to review alternatives and engage with our Republican colleagues as we seek responsible actions to balance our budget.”
“Over three years, we have reduced public service levels across the board, from support for kindergarten education to supervision of offenders in our communities,” they continued. “As we approach special session, we must recognize that more cuts – however necessary mathematically – will impact Washingtonians, their families and their communities.”
“As legislators, we have many tools for balancing our budget – including giving the voters the option of approving new revenue to pay for the services they want. We strongly encourage our colleagues in both parties, in the House and Senate, to avoid drawing lines in the sand and instead to arrive in Olympia in November prepared to offer solutions and to be ready to discuss all the possibilities.”
The same point was made by Jay Inslee, who hopes to succeed Chris Gregoire as governor beginning in January 2013.
“Our state budget has been battered by this recession, $10 billion has already been cut – more than $1.5 billion out of education just last session,” Inslee said.
“Our children can’t afford it. Our parents can’t afford it. Our state’s future can’t afford it. We know education is the key to job growth in this state.”
He added, “I hope the legislature seriously addresses the questions about how we put ourselves on a long-term path to economic recovery and how to preserve priorities like education that create economic opportunity, and make responsible investments in our families and future. There are still options for the Legislature to pursue including finding savings by closing ineffective corporate tax loopholes, such as the exemption for out-of-state banks.”
Unfortunately, Initiative 1053 unconstitutionally prevents our legislators from using a balanced approach to respond to this crisis. It only takes fifty one representatives and twenty five senators to agree to eviscerate services, but it takes sixty five representatives and thirty two senators to agree to save public services by raising revenue. That’s wrong, and that needs to be changed.
There is a lawsuit pending in King County Superior Court that seeks to invalidate Initiative 1053, but that suit is unlikely to be decided before the special session. Even if the court struck I-1053 down, the decision would undoubtedly be appealed to the state Supreme Court, which won’t be in a hurry to resolve the matter. The last three times the Supreme Court has had the chance to declare I-1053’s predecessors unconstitutional, it passed. It didn’t issue an opinion on the merits of the case. The justices simply did a duck dive instead.
I-1053 is choking our common wealth and our public services. We need to destroy I-1053 before I-1053 destroys us. That much is clear from this latest revenue forecast.