Senator: Put state government’s ‘sacred cows on a diet’
December 20, 2011
By Warren Kagarise
State Sen. Cheryl Pflug — a lawmaker representing Issaquah in Olympia — said state government needs to “put some sacred cows on a diet” to rein in spending as legislators return to the Capitol next month to tackle a budget shortfall.
Legislators adjourned from a 17-day special session Dec. 14 after adopting a $480 million package to trim spending. (The average cost of a day the Legislature is in session is more than $10,000 per day.)
Lawmakers needed to reduce spending by $2 billion in order to close a $1.4 billion budget gap. Gov. Chris Gregoire asked lawmakers to cut $2 billion and called the Legislature into a special session. The hole opened in the state budget due to lower-than-predicted revenues.
The governor called for a shorter school year, reductions to social-services programs and other measures to cut costs. Gregoire also asked lawmakers to send a temporary sales tax increase to voters to offset reductions.
Pflug said the governor must do more before lawmakers consider a tax increase.
“The governor has said everything is on the table, so it’s time to look at things that typically have been sacred cows in state government, such as public-employee benefits and tribal gaming revenue,” she said in a statement. “Those represent big pots of money — hundreds of millions — and I think it’s reasonable to put some sacred cows on a diet before postponing highway repairs or cutting necessary services for the elderly, veterans and the disabled.”
Pflug, a Maple Valley Republican, said lawmakers took steps to prepare for the 2012 regular session. Lawmakers return to Olympia for the session Jan. 9.
“It doesn’t do much good to have a legislative session if we don’t have the necessary tools and support for our work,” she said in a statement. “Before the Legislature considers an ‘emergency’ tax increase, we really need to have all options on the table.”
Pflug represents Issaquah and other Eastside communities in the 5th Legislative District. (Issaquah sprawls across the 5th, 41st and 48th legislative districts.)
State Sen. Steve Litzow, a 41st Legislative District Republican, said the Legislature’s upcoming regular session should benefit from discussions had during the special session.
“The special session as a whole was productive, giving us a head start on some complex issues that we’ll be addressing when we arrive back in Olympia in January,” he said in a statement. “Without having worked through some of these major issues now, we would have lost out on more ideas, time and opportunities to fundamentally change the course of where our state is heading.”
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.