Comparison of adopted House and Senate budgets

March 5, 2012

After a historic turn of events Friday night in the Senate, two budgets have now been adopted: A House Democrat budget (supported only by Democrats with three Democrats voting no) and a Senate Republican budget (supported by all GOP Senators and three Democrat Senators).

Here is how a Seattle Times editorial describes the events:

The passage of a Republican budget out of the Washington State Senate with a majority of Democrats amounts to a political earthquake not seen in 25 years. Events like this do not happen without cause and cannot be talked into going away.

Democratic leaders in Olympia proclaim the budget illegitimate and say they won't accept it. Not surprising. Friday's insurrection was against them, and their egos are tender.

But the revolution was not undemocratic. The Senate's majority ruled. It was simply a different majority, and on this issue it was, and is, the only majority. The 22 Republicans plus Democratic Sens. Jim Kastama, Rodney Tom and Tim Sheldon did what Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown and her team could not do — pass a budget with 25 votes. Their work deserves the same respect as any other budget — more, if anything, for the sheer bravado.

Here is a comparison of the House and Senate adopted budgets according to www.fiscal.wa.gov:

Among the major differences between the two budgets is the long-term sustainability. The House Democrat budget does not repeal I-728/732 and utilizes a $405 million K-12 apportionment and levy delay gimmick resulting in a substantial projected shortfall in the next budget. The Senate GOP budget, however, assumes full repeal of I-728/732 and does not rely on the K-12 apportionment gimmick.

According to the Office of Financial Management's 6-yr budget outlook:

  • I-728 costs $922 million in 2013-15
  • I-732 costs $242 million in 2013-15
  • Repayment of K-12 apportionment gimmick costs $330 million in 2013-15

Along with other changes made, this means that under the provisions of the proposed 4-year balanced budget amendment (SJR 8222), the Senate GOP budget would comply with the requirements while the House Democrat budget would not.

Of concern in the Senate GOP budget is the decision to skip a pension payment. This $133 million skipped payment, however, is made within the context of the adoption of a pension reform bill (SB 6378) which closes PERS/TRS/SERS 2 pension plans to new entrants. This reform is expected to save $1 billion over the next 25-yrs.

The next step in the budget negotiations is anyone's guess. We are in somewhat uncharted territory after the events of Friday night.

According to the Seattle Times:

Democratic leaders on Saturday treated the GOP takeover of the Senate budget like a bad dream.

Senate Republicans, with the help of three conservative Democrats, seized control Friday and passed their own budget proposal — one far different from the majority party — by a 25-24 vote.

The GOP argues Democrats should set aside hurt feelings and negotiate a compromise. 'It's the responsibility of all of us to talk about how we can find a way home together,' said Sen. Joe Zarelli, R-Ridgefield, the chief architect of the Republican budget.

Democratic leaders in the House and Senate, as well as the governor, said they're not interested. For now, at least, they're giving Republicans a cold shoulder and negotiating among themselves.

The Washington State Wire reports:

Two days after a historic rout on the Senate floor, Republican Leader Mike Hewitt says he wants to extend the olive branch to the Democrats who lost control of the chamber by a narrow 25-24 vote.

Hewitt says he will offer Senate Democratic leaders the same terms they offered to the Republicans last year, and which they appeared to abandon this session. If the Democrats still want to produce a joint Senate budget, the door is open, he says. Of course, they won't be in the drivers' seat anymore.

'We’ve been wanting to work together all year long,' Hewitt said.

Of course, it all depends on what the Democratic Caucus wants. There are some lines that can’t be crossed. But that’s pretty much the way it worked last year, back when both parties worked together on a budget but the Democrats were in charge.

The 2012 Regular Session is scheduled to conclude this Thursday (March 8). A special session is looking all but guaranteed at this point to wrap up work on the budget.