As lawmakers put the finishing touches on their 2009-11 budget proposals, there is still time to shift the focus to needed reforms to ensure the state is moving towards a performance-based government.
One way to facilitate this debate could be to review just how well the state is following the current performance-based budgeting requirements already in law.
JLARC (Joint Legislative Audit & Review Committee) is the perfect vehicle for this type of exercise. If interested, lawmakers could insert a proviso in the budget for JLARC to review current requirements in the statutes governing budget development. It could direct JLARC to:
Evaluate the executive branch’s performance measurement requirements related to budget requests and budget development (RCW 43.88.030 and RCW 43.88.090).
The study will focus on these statutory provisions by evaluating the extent to which:
(1) State agencies establish goals for achieving results that conform to statutory direction and limitations.
(2) State agencies establish quality and productivity objectives that are outcome-based, objective, and measure progress toward goals.
(3) The office of financial management assists state agencies with the development of performance measures.
(4) State agencies budget requests link performance measures to achievement of quality and productivity objectives.
(5) The office of financial management analyzes whether the measures for state agency activities are demonstrating progress toward objectives.
> (6) Agency budget requests !
include proposals for improvement when the office of financial management identifies insufficient progress toward goals.
(7) The governor’s biennial budget proposal includes indicators that demonstrate measurable progress toward priority results.
Although the current budget proposals reduce JLARC’s funding, lawmakers should weigh the benefits of directing JLARC to conduct this type of review to help lay the ground work for the Legislature to move towards performance-based budgeting.
By now you’ve either closed the books on the 2008 tax year or are putting the finishing touches on your tax return. If you don't by midnight, however, you’ll be hearing soon from the IRS and becoming intimately acquainted with what it means to face federal tax penalties.
But just because you can put last year’s taxes behind you doesn’t mean it’s too early to look ahead to what your bill may be next year. In fact, if some state House and Senate Democrats have their way your 2009 state tax bill might be much higher.
The current debate in the Legislature is whether to put a tax increase package on the ballot for voters to approve.
Senate Democrats are leaning towards an income tax for the “rich.” House Democrats are tossing around a “temporary” sales tax increase.
Mark A. Emmert, president of the University of Washington, had an op-ed in The Seattle Times today requesting that lawmakers allow the state's higher education institutions to raise tuition fees. Emmert noted:
Obviously, Washington has a severe budget shortfall, and balancing
the budget requires very difficult decisions. The magnitude of the
proposed higher-education cuts, however, goes far past what can be
managed through efficiency measures and new ways of providing
The leaders of our four-year colleges and universities understand
that our schools must take cuts. But we also know that we can keep
students coming to school and graduating on time if we are simply given
more flexibility on tuition. We can help our students and our state
without new state money. Moreover, we can fix much of this problem
without denying access to students because of their income or family
The UW has the lowest tuition of any of its peers and is one of the best bargains in the country. With increased financial aid and the expanded federal tax credit, we can remain an excellent value for our families, maintain our world-class quality, and not slash the number of students we admit.
To give higher education the opportunity to resolve this crisis without requiring more state money is the only responsible thing to do. To do otherwise is to deny thousands of our citizens a chance to succeed in the knowledge economy.
There's a partial remedy at hand: higher tuitions. Emmert and others have sought authority to raise tuition by as much as 14 percent. Lawmakers are ba!
lking. The House proposes 10 percent; the Senate, only 7 percent.
Olympia needs a mental adjustment. In good times, when direct appropriations are easier to come by, capping tuition might make sense. In this emergency, business as usual could be disastrous.
A 14 percent tuition hike would not be the burden it sounds like. With Congress expanding Pell grants and the federal tuition tax credit, the increase in financial assistance will more than offset another 14 percent in tuition - which would be $875 a year at the UW.
Without getting into the question of broader higher education reforms at this time, this is a reasonable request.
Lawmakers should allow the state's universities the full authority to set market-based user fees to fund their operations. The same holds true for state parks. This will allow general tax revenue to be freed for vital core functions.
Today the House Ways & Means committee adopted numerous amendments to the proposed House budget. Among those adopted:
1244-PS AMH WAYS DRIV 195: "Requires the Evergreen State College to expend $200,000 in 2009-11 on the Labor Education and Research Center."
1244-PS AMH WAYS DRIV 167: "Removes the state support enrollment targets for the four-year universities and colleges and the State Board for Community and Technical College system."
1244-PS AMH WAYS GAVC 031: "Requires the parks and recreation commission to not close any state parks during the 2009-11 biennium, and to report to the legislature by January 10, 2010, on its budget and resources related to operating the parks for the remainder of the 2009-11 biennium."
1244-PS AMH WAYS PAME 039:
"Directs the State Auditor to conduct biennial audits of local
governments with revenues of $10 million or less and no findings for a
three year period." (Currently these entities are audited annually under federal grant requirements if they spend $500,000 or more of federal money)
The first two amendments are of particular note in light of this blog post we did last week highlighting the budgeted enrollment slots for higher education (the amendment removes those targets from the budget) and this audit finding calling into question the legality of the Evergreen State College's Labor Center activities.
Not to get lost in all the debate about the state's operating budget, the Legislature's capital budget proposals were also released this week. In years past the capital budget has been referred to as the "Fun Budget."
• Apple Awards (for schools) - $250,000 • Washington State Historical Society - $12,250,000 • Eastern Washington State Historical Society - $1,939,000 • Admiral Theatre-No Theatre Left Behind - $140,000 • Artspace Everett Lofts - $1,000,000 • Building a Foundation for Discovery - $250,000 • Campus Consolidation (Cornish) - $375,000 • Convert Key!
Bank To Everett's Plaza Theatre - $500,000 • Cottage Renovation (Hedgebrook) - $20,000 • Downstairs at the 5th - $800,000 • Federal Way Performing Arts Center - $325,000 • Gateway Center (Lummi) - $150,000 • James Ctr for the Performing Arts (Sequim) - $150,000 • Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center - $475,000 • Legacy Project (Imagine) - $200,000 • Modular Classrooms for Dance (Gladish) - $30,000 • Museum Expansion (Maryhill) - $1,500,000 • New Hands On Children's Museum - $1,000,000 • Phase II Renovation (Mt. Baker Theatre) - $1,000,000 • Reconstruction of First Stage, Issaquah - $400,000 • Seattl!
e Opera Center - Phase I Design - $650,000 • !
60; Stage Two (Whidbey) - $450,000 • Vashon Arts Center - $1,115,000 • Visual Arts Education Center (Sno Co.) - $1,000,000 • Viva Vera Capital Campaign - $70,000 • WA Hall Acquisition and Rehab - $400,000 • A Home for Opportunity - $325,000 • Building the new Eastside Clinic - $1,900,000 • Community Center for Sand Point Housing - $350,000 • Donald G. Topping HOPE Center - $1,934,250 • Dove House - $240,000 • Duvall Multi-Service Center - $617,985 • East Central Community Facilities Expansion Project - $231,500 • El Centro de la Raza Safety & Systems Improvements -$250,031 • Emmanuel Family Life Center - $!
400,594 • Eritrean Community Center Expansion - $300,000 • Family Services Center - $1,265,000 • Ferndale Boys & Girls Club - $752,847 • Giant Step - $520,761 • Greenbridge Early Learning Center - $1,419,281 • High Point Neighborhood Center - $2,000,000 • Highline YMCA - $2,000,000 • Milgard Work Opportunity Center - $1,850,000 • Mt. Baker Planned Parenthood Education and Training Center - $881,847 • Northeast Community Center Expansion - $1,800,000 • Pierce County Therapy Center - $128,000 • Rainier Vista & Rainier Valley Teen Center - $3,906,000 • Repurposing Daybreak Star - $87,500 • &!
#0160; Riverwalk Point Community Building - $79,253 • !
60; Rotary Support Center for Families - $3,500,000 • Technology Access Foundation Community Learning Space - $1,500,000 • The Keller House Services Center - $600,000 • YMCA/YWCA Central Spokane Facility - $3,500,000
Having fun yet?
(NOTE: CAPITAL SPENDING DOES NOT CORRELATE DIRECTLY TO SPENDING IN OPERATING BUDGET)
State Support for Annual Full-Time Equivalent Student Enrollments
UW – Main
UW – Bothell
UW – Tacoma
WSU – Main
WSU – Tri-Cities
WSU – Vancouver
Budgeted enrollment, though not increasing, is not cut under the proposed House budget. So how is enrollment being reduced?
The problem is not with a budgeted reduction but the fact that higher education institutions "over-enrolled," meaning they admitted more students over the past few years than the Legislature budgeted for.
In other higher education budget news, it appears Senate Democratic budget writers were not swayed by this recent damning audit of the Evergreen State College's Labor Center; the Labor Center receives $200,000 in the Senate budget (Section 610  of SB 5600).
State Auditor Brian Sonntag testified today against the Senate's proposed raid of dedicated I-900 performance audit funds. The House budget also raids I-900 funds. From the House budget summary:
Performance Audit Account Program Funding (-$13.5 million General Fund-State; $13.5 million Performance Audits of Government-State)
Funding for JLARC, GMAP, WSIPP, K-12 budget driver audits and conservation district audits is provided from the Performance Audits of Government Account for the 2009-11 biennium rather than with General Fund-State.
Here is a copy of the State Auditor's testimony:
Brian Sonntag Testimony on Proposed 2009-2011 Budget Senate Ways and Means Committee March 31, 2009
Thank you for giving me an opportunity t!
o explain the consequences of this proposed budget on the Office of State Auditor.
Certainly, this budget period is extraordinarily difficult. I respect and value the responsibilities you have and the tough decisions you must make.
I recognize that our Office along with every other state agency must share in the pain of those decisions.
But the budget you have proposed goes beyond funding reductions or a one-time sweep of our cash balance. To take more than half of the revenue that voters permanently designated for performance audits and use it to fund other programs undercuts the performance audit authority that citizens directly gave to their independent State Auditor.
That change contained in Section 927 of the budget and the precedent it sets is absolutely unacceptable.
It is unacceptable to me. It is unacceptable to citizens who in such a time as this!
look to us more than ever to ensure that government is accoun!
table and transparent. They recognize this Office is uniquely positioned to be part of the reform the governance change that everybody talks about and wants.
What particularly disappoints me is that the effects of this budget come at a time when our Office is looked upon to be part of the solution. Every discussion we’ve had with legislative leadership and the Governor centered on how we can help bring about meaningful, cost-saving government reform.
We’ve already got several performance audits underway with the intent to identify immediate cost savings as well as long-term efficiencies.
We also have launched a statewide performance review, which we were called upon to do by the Governor. It will focus exclusively on state government, its governance structure and back-office functions such as information technology and leasing office space. Many in the Legislature recognize its potential!
Just like successful performance reviews in other states and nationally, we’re going into it with the full intention of finding and recommending significant spending reductions and proposed ways to reshape and recreate what state government does and how state government does it.
We will settle for nothing less than true, meaningful reform.
The time for thinking outside the box is over. There is no box.
I’m disappointed in another respect. This budget does not recognize the value our performance audits have produced so far.
To date, we have completed 15 performance audits of state and local governments that have produced a ratio of 10 dollars saved to one dollar spent. That’s a wise investment.
For state government alone, our audits have recommended nearly $500 million in potential savings.
One audit concluded that four of the largest state agencies could collect $320 million in del!
inquent debt owed to the state simply by following industry best practi!
ces. That’s an additional $320 million that should be in the state’s pocket.
Our audit of Department of Health transformed how the state licenses and disciplines health care professionals keeping vulnerable patients safe from predatory practitioners. While it did not identify a nickel of specific cost savings, it certainly minimized the risk of potentially costly tort claims against the state.
Let’s be clear, our audits have proven their worth. They have real value, and they are meeting the expectations of citizens.
We worked diligently and constructively with the Governor to reduce our budget – both in our state financial audit work and in performance audits. The budget proposed by the Governor reflects a reduction of 20 percent in our state appropriation.
I view the diversion of revenue designated for performance audits as nothing short of an assault on what citizens expect the state to do when t!
hey gave us that authority and the funding stream to carry it out.
We need accountability now more than ever and citizens demand and deserve it. We’ve seen the consequences of no oversight and no accountability in our free-falling economy. State government accountability is what’s at stake and it’s absent in your budget proposal.
Thank you very much.
The Senate Ways and Means Committee members had no questions for the Auditor after his testimony.
A lot of attention is being provided to what isn't in the Senate budget. Since those activities are already receiving scrutiny, what did the Senate decide to include in its spending plan? Here are some examples of those priorities that apparently are recession proof:
State Historical Society - $7.8 million (all funds)
East Wash State Historical Society - $6.4 million (all funds)
Liquor Control Board - $245 million (all funds)
Archaeology & Historic Preservation - $4.7 million (all funds)
Convention and Trade Center - $117 million (all funds)
Funding is provided to Star USA to assist hosting the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Spokane, scheduled for Jan. 14-24, 2010 - $200 thousand
One-time funding is provided for a grant to KCTS Public Television to offer Spanish language programming. The programming will be offered through "V-me", a program service modeled on public television, with children's, arts, history, science, biography, nature, movies, pop culture, and public affairs genres - $40 thousand
Funding is provided to implement ESSB 6035 (rating plans). The legislation requires the department to make changes to the retrospective rating program requirements for how sponsoring entities or associations use retrospective rating refunds - $788 thousand (all funds)
Higher Education Coordinating Board - $551 million (all funds)
Slow going so far but hope to finish reviewing the Senate budget today and start on the House proposal next.
Back in 2007, a bill was introduced to require a mandatory $5 fee be added to vehicle registration fees to help support state parks. According to the bill summary for the original version of HB 2275:
The Department of Licensing (DOL) will collect five additional dollars at a motor vehicle's initial registration or renewal. The fee will be deposited into the State Parks Renewal and Stewardship Account to be used for the operation and maintenance of state parks.
When registering a vehicle, the owner may certify that he or she does not intend to use the vehicle to visit state parks. The DOL will not collect a $5 fee from vehicles not intended to be used to visit state parks.
Essentially this means that those paying their vehicle registrations fees would have been permitted to opt-out of paying the $5 park fee if they certif!
ied they didn't plan to visit a state park.
The substitute version of the bill ultimately adopted by the Legislature and signed by the Governor, however, changed the funding scheme to opt-in:
The Department of Licensing (DOL) will provide an opportunity to donate an additional $5 at a vehicle's initial registration or renewal. The fee will be deposited into the State Parks Renewal and Stewardship Account to be used for the operation and maintenance of state parks.
Despite this give and take by lawmakers in 2007 making the $5 park fee affirmative (you must opt-in), some lawmakers are now talking about changing the fee back to permissive (you must opt-out). According to The Olympian:
Flipping the rules on a $5 donation program could keep dozens of state parks open for use over the next two years, b!
ut critics say it's a sneaky way to essentially raise taxe!
Currently, residents can check a box volunteering to pay the fee. A proposal that calls for charging the fee on vehicle tab renewals unless residents check a box allowing them to opt out has met stiff opposition in the Legislature.
But why stop at state parks? Why not opt-out of higher taxes and fees for education and health care?
The answer may rest in the fact that the higher the fees you are asking taxpayers to "opt-out" of the more likely they are to pay attention and do so.
The collective wisdom of the Legislature was correct in 2007 by focusing on an opt-in process after hearing arguments for opt-out and deciding not to pursue that scheme.
As for allowing those who want to send more of their money to Olympia, at least eight states currently have "Tax me More" funds where voluntary opt-in donations can be sent. It looks!
like Virginia's taxpayers have been lining up to take advantage of the opportunity to send the state more money:
The Commonwealth of Virginia wishes to recognize the following individuals and businesses who have made donations to the Commonwealth's General Fund.
* Delegate Robert B Bell * Andrew K. Kohlhepp * John E. Meyers * D. Nick Rerras * George M. and Milena S. VanSant
With bills moving through the Legislature to eliminate the state Sunshine Committee, one citizen member is proposing a resolution to help continue the committee's work just in case:
RESOLUTION TO BE SUBMITTED AT MAY 12, 2009 MEETING OF THE PUBLIC RECORDS EXEMPTIONS ACCOUNTABILITY COMMITTEE
Be it Resolved that it is the sense of this committee that all exemptions to the Public Records Act and any statutory basis to withhold information or records be eliminated after two years unless specifically reauthorized by the Legislature with the exception of those ten included in the original legislation; and that the Legislature examine all of the eliminated exemptions individually, and Further, that all future exemptions be limited to a term of two years and be examined by the Legislature upon their expiration on a case by case basis to determine if they merit !
reauthorization or should be eliminated or revised.
The reason I'm introducing this resolution is: when I learned of Sen. Fairley's bill proposing to eliminate the Sunshine Committee and the other bill that would eliminate or suspend boards, commissions, and committees, I realized that there would be no mechanism in place to review the ever increasing number of exemptions. The public's access to government information would continue to shrink unchecked.
I believe that if there are valid reasons for exemptions, they should be retained; however, some exemptions may no longer be valid but would remain in the RCWs forever unless someone challenged them in court.
/>Florida has a provision in their law that exemptions to the!
ir public records law have to be re-examined by the legislature after a certain period of time. It is then decided either to retain, eliminate, or sunset each exemption. That seems to me to be a good model.
. . . "Normal and regular conduct" for a legislator includes discussing a ballot proposition placed on the ballot by the legislature. Legislators are permitted to discuss such a ballot measure, including its merits and demerits. Legislators may state their position on such a ballot measure, including advocacy expressions of support or opposition. Such discussions are permitted in all manner of communications, whether initiated by the legislator or in response to an inquiry, and including newsletters, letters, press releases, and public meetings undertaken in the conduct!
of the official's office . . .
I spent the last few days of Sunshine Week in Washington D.C. participating in work sessions with members of the Obama administration and invited representatives from approximately 55 organizations discussing how to implement the President’s Open Government Directive. The work sessions were put together by OpentheGovernment.org and OMB Watch.
Topics on the agenda for the Open Government Directive work session were:
Accessing the right data
Creating a culture of openness
There was a separate work session with individuals from Obama’s budget office (OMB) focused on how to strengthen the transparency and accountability of the Federal Recovery Act (stimulus package). Discussion topics were:
To help continue the discussion on these important issues, Openthegovernment.org has setup a Google Group. Here is their call to action for your participation:
As many of you know, on his first day in office, President Obama sent a memorandum to his Administration on transparency and open government, asking them to develop recommendations for an “Open Government Directive” that moves government towards being “transparent,” “participatory” and “collaborative”.
OpenTheGovernment.org helped kick off the national discussion of what needs to happen going forward and specific ideas for building the structures that enable – and force – government officials to embrace and advance openness during the 4th annual Sunshine Week webcast on Friday, March 20th. To continue that work, OpenTheGovernment.org has set up the OpenGovernmentDirective Google Group.
The purpose of this group is to provide a forum to discuss and develop recommendation!
s for the issues that this Directive needs to address to make the Executive Branch transparent. Discussions on participation and collaboration are welcomed to the extent that they relate to the transparency goal. This group is not for discussions of Legislative or Judicial branch issues.
The state Sunshine Committee heard testimony today on a motion by committee Chair Tom Carr to remove the legislative exemption from the public records act. Carr is proposing the following:
The Committee recommends that the legislature eliminate the Legislative exemption, which excludes from public scrutiny personal records of the legislature, including e-mails, correspondence, except when designated as a public record by a “official action of the Senate or House of Representatives.” Every other legislative body in the state of Washington is fully subject to the public records act. There is no principled reason why the state legislature should be exempt.
This recent Olympia editorial highlights the fact that Legislators’ emails are not subject to the Public Records Act.
But there is no simple “legislative exemption” in the PRA. Instead, you have to look at two statutes.
It starts with the definition of “public record” in RCW 42.56.010(2). That definition provides that “public records means legislative records as defined in RCW 40.14.100.”
The definition of “legislative record” in RCW 40.14.100
then expressly excludes “reports or correspondence made or received by
or in any way under the personal control of the individual members of
the legislature.” In other words, records held by individual
legislators, including their emails, are not “legislative records” and
thus not “public records.”
Though too late to act on the proposals this year, the House Ways and Means Committee kicked off Sunshine Week by holding a work session on numerous budget reform bills yesterday. Committee Chair Rep. Kelli Linville described the proposals as "good government bills" when opening the work session.
The members engaged in a healthy conversation on the proposals and indicated that although the bills would not advance this session the reforms proposed would be considered and discussed in the interim to help determine what changes should be made to the state's budget process.
Jason Mercier is Director of the Center for Government Reform at Washington Policy Center. He is a contributing editor of the Heartland Institute’s Budget & Tax News, serves on the board of the Washington Coalition for Open Government, and was an advisor to the 2002 Washington State Tax Structure Committee. In June 2010, former Governor Gregoire appointed Jason as WPC’s representative on her Fiscal Responsibility and Reform Panel. Jason holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Washington State University.