Though somewhat lost in the background of the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality of the federal health care law, the Court's decision to give states discretion on whether to pursue the law's expansion of Medicaid could have the biggest impact on state budgets going forward.
Lawmakers received some good news today with the state's caseload forecast adding approximately $56 million to the minuscule budget ending fund balance. Had the caseload forecast instead gone the other way and resulted in an increase of $56 million in costs, the balance sheet for only the general fund would have been a negative $33 million.
Based on a state brief in the roll-your-own cigarette "tax" lawsuit being heard today at 2 p.m. in Franklin County, lawmakers may be able to ignore a law without first repealing it by passing a new law.
Next week the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide the fate of the controversial federal health care law. With the Court's ruling less than a week a way it was interesting to see the following sole-source contract notice posted yesterday by the Office of Financial Management (OFM):
State Auditor candidate Rep. Mark Miloscia (D) and Secretary of State candidate Sen. Jim Kastama (D) are unhappy with the decision by the Office of Financial Management (OFM) to advise agencies to not comply with a state requirement to undergo a quality management assessment. Rep. Miloscia and Sen. Kastama have asked the Attorney General's Office to review OFM's action and provide an official opinion on the legality of the decision.
While everyone is focused on the House Democrats' lawsuit challenging the 18 year-old voter-approved supermajority requirement for tax increases, a new lawsuit filed today could be the one that actually forces the Supreme Court to finally rule on this issue.
Last week the Office of Financial Management (OFM) sent state agencies instructions for building Governor Gregoire's last budget proposal (assuming no special sessions or across-the-board budget cuts beforehand) due this December for the 2013-15 budget. OFM Director Marty Brown warned agencies:
To provide a check on the legislature, the state constitution grants the people the power to veto unwanted legislation through the use of a referendum. According to the Secretary of State, “The referendum allows citizens, through the petition process, to refer acts of the legislature to the ballot before they become law.” This power applies to any bill adopted by the legislature except those that include an “emergency clause.”
In a decision that guarantees the state's 18 year old voter-approved 2/3 vote requirement for tax increases will remain at the forefront of the public debate, King County Superior Court Judge Bruce Heller ruled today the tax protection requirement is unconstitutional. This means the state Supreme Court one way or another will finally be forced to rule on the issue instead of punting as it has done in the past (most recently in 2007 and 2009).