Open Government

WPC's Center for Government Reform's mission is to partner with stakeholders and citizens to work toward a government focused on its core functions while improving its transparency, accountability, performance, and effectiveness for taxpayers.

What's New

Bill introduced to outsource part of state's I.T. functions

January 25, 2010 in Blog

Last summer the state broke ground on the new Department of Information Services data center. The project will cost upwards of $255 million and consolidate the state government's I.T. infrastructure and its 32 current data centers. But some legislators are concerned that such a large project isn't necessarily the best way to go. Why? Because of the emergence of cloud computing.

County struggles with keeping rising costs of benefits in check

January 25, 2010 in In the News
The Columbian (Vancouver)
Source: 
The Columbian (Vancouver)
Date: 
Monday, January 25, 2010

Olympia Checklist: Bills to be considered this session (video)

January 24, 2010 in In the News
Northwest Cable News
Source: 
Northwest Cable News
Date: 
Sunday, January 24, 2010

Roll Call

January 23, 2010 in In the News
Wenatchee World
Source: 
Wenatchee World
Date: 
Saturday, January 23, 2010

Furlough Bill Passes Senate

January 23, 2010 in In the News
Washington Alliance for a Competitive Economy
Source: 
Washington Alliance for a Competitive Economy
Date: 
Saturday, January 23, 2010

Restriction on new tax preferences introduced

January 22, 2010 in Blog

Senator Rodney Tom (D-48) has introduced a bill to restrict the creation of new tax preferences. SB 6736: Modifying state expenditure limitations would mandate that new tax preferences must be offset with reductions in existing tax preferences. The bill would change the state's expenditure limit to: 

Section 1. (d) Assure that new tax preferences do not decrease funding for essential services by adjusting previously enacted tax preferences; . . .

Section 3. (1) After January 1, 2010, the fiscal impact of new tax preferences must be offset by modifying or repealing previously enacted tax preferences in order to enact a single piece of legislation which has a net zero impact or a net posit!
ive impact.

The proposal also changes the definition of what it means to raise taxes:

Section 2. (6) For the purposes of this chapter, "raises taxes" means any action or combination of actions by the legislature, other than an action or combination of actions that has a net zero impact or a net positive impact under section 3 of this act, that increases state tax revenue deposited in any fund, budget, or account, regardless of whether the revenues are deposited into the general fund.

If adopted this means that new tax preferences could not be enacted unless a previous tax preference was modified to generate the same amount of revenue or more. The two-thirds vote requirement to enact tax increases would not be triggered under such an action since the bill redefines what it means to raise taxes.

Senate votes for temporary employee compensation savings

January 22, 2010 in Blog

The Senate today adopted SB 6503: Closing state agencies on specified dates. The bill passed 27 to 17. According to the bill report:

"State agencies are directed to achieve a $69.154 million reduction in employee compensation costs from the near General Fund through mandatory and voluntary furloughs, leave without pay, reduced work hours, voluntary retirements and separations, layoffs, and other methods. Agency compensation reduction plans must be submitted by May 15 and approved by the Office of Financial Management by June 1. Agencies that fail to submit an approved compensation reduction plan will be subject to 13 specified agency closure dates beginning in June 2010."

An amendment to extend and increase the savings through 2013 was rejected. The amendment failed on a voice vote.

State employee unions bitterly oppose the temporary compensation reductions. The Washington Federation of State Employees told its members to lobby against the bill saying

  • "This is not about making state employees shoulder their fair share. They already have, giving up $1 billion in pay, health benefits, pension contributions and some 4,700 layoffs. No other jurisdiction in this state has taken both health care and wage cuts on top of furloughs."
  • "Instead of closing state offices and temporarily laying off staff, the Legislature instead should close some of the $14 billion in accessible tax breaks. What is more important, a tax break for condominium maintenance or keeping quality services for taxpayers?"

According to the Office of Financial Management (OFM), the average total compensation for a state full-time equivalent (FTE) employee was $72,504 in 2009. This is an increase of $12,909 since 2005 (22 percent increase).

In related news, I asked OFM how much could be saved if state employee contributions for health care was increased from 12 percent to 20 percent. Here is the answer:

"If we did nothing else to solve the projected fund balance deficit in PEBB of $220 - $240 million, and moved the average employee contribution from 12% to 20%, we would generate approximately $48 million, which would reduce the projected deficit to $172 -$192 million. That amount would be for the 6 months beginning Jan.1, 2011, since that is likely the next time a premium change could be implemented. Some or all of !
that could be used to save General Fund money, but that would be up to the Legislature."

The average state employee health care contribution of 12 percent is far below the average private sector share.

According to the Washington Research Council, "A recent Towers Perrin survey of 200 large employers found that the average employee’s share of health care premiums was 22.6 percent in 2008, up from 20.1 percent in 2003."

Legislative Roll Call Report

January 22, 2010 in In the News
The Daily News (Longview)
Source: 
The Daily News (Longview)
Date: 
Friday, January 22, 2010

Rollcall: How your lawmakers voted

January 22, 2010 in In the News
The News Tribune (Tacoma)
Source: 
The News Tribune (Tacoma)
Date: 
Friday, January 22, 2010