Spokane Republicans vote to approve sustainable bipartisan budget

Baumgartner and Padden join bipartisan coalition to dump budget gimmicks and keep spending in line with revenue

Mike PaddenSen. Michael BaumgartnerEarly this morning, the Washington State Senate approved its operating budget with a bipartisan vote of 25 to 24, with three Democrats joining all 22 Republican members. The bipartisan reform-based plan rebalances the budget adopted last year in a sustainable manner that will keep the Legislature from having to deal with another budget crisis next year.

“For fifty-three days, the people of Washington waited patiently for the Senate majority to do its job and produce a fiscally responsible budget,” said Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane. “Today members of the Senate Republican Caucus, along with a handful of reform-minded Democrats, finally delivered. The reform budget passed tonight builds upon the bipartisan, reform-oriented budget we produced last year; it spends less money than it expects to take in and provides for an ample reserve; most importantly, it will do so without major gimmicks or tax increases.”

Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, agreed.

“Passing a bipartisan budget should have been the Legislature’s top priority this year, but instead we saw a focus on divisive social issues, followed by House and Senate majority budget proposals that only kicked the can down the road, using fund transfers, federal dollars and gimmicks to push the problem out into the future,” said Padden, who like Baumgartner, serves on the Senate Ways and Means Committee. “I am proud to be a part of a team that responded to the state’s fiscal situation by producing a sustainable budget, without relying on gimmicks or tax increases. Our bipartisan budget not only closes the 1.1 billion dollar gap, it does so while protecting our most vulnerable, prioritizing core functions of government and remaining in balance for the next three years.”

The bipartisan, reform budget was brought for a vote in the Senate chamber today after Senate Democrats did not move their own budget proposal forward. Three of them joined all 22 Senate Republicans to create the philosophical majority needed to bring a reform budget to the Senate floor for an up or down vote. Among other benefits, the measure:

  • does not kick the can down the road, depend on gimmicks, or spend more revenue than the state expects to come in the door;
  • prioritizes existing revenue toward core services and programs;
  • makes K-12 and higher education more of a priority than the House and Senate majority budget proposals;
  • preserves the social safety net by offering greater support for the elderly, disabled and mentally ill; and
  • leaves a much larger ending-fund reserve – about $500 million.

Along with the budget, the Senate also addressed Senate Bill 6378, a measure that will reform the state’s employee pension plan – one of the biggest cost-drivers in state government. The bill would not apply to current employees, but would place new state employees in the “PERS 3” retirement plan that splits the retirement benefit between employer contributions and the employee’s own contributions. SB 6378 would also eliminate the early-retirement option for new state employees, resulting in savings of about $2 billion over 25 years.