Northwest NEWS

January 22,2001


Locke budget is trouble for taxpayers

by State Rep. Kathy Lambert (R) Redmond
   Governor Locke's new general-fund spending package totals $22.7 billion - an increase of more than $2 billion over the previous biennial budget.
   The governor's proposed budget represents a 10 percent increase in spending, despite a stable inflation rate and flat population growth in Washington state.
   Transportation is clearly the state's most pressing issue, but the governor's budget contains no funding for new highway improvements. I am very disappointed, especially after he assured us over the past few years that he would take the lead on this issue. Governor Locke has proposed an operating budget that spends $500 million more than we're bringing in and a transportation wish list with a $9 billion funding hole.
   The two-year budget proposal released today by the governor includes $1.2 billion in new spending and leaves an unrestricted ending fund balance of just $157 million. The governor's proposal would spend approximately $500 million more than expected revenue over the next two years.
   The governor has also proposed taking $170 million from the state's emergency reserve fund to pay for highway maintenance and preservation, but he failed to offer any proposals to fund the $9 billion new improvements he outlined.
   The Blue Ribbon Commission has worked long and hard to propose many substantive ideas to solve the transportation crisis in this state. I am concerned that this budget does not deal with the proposals that have responsibly been put forward."
   The governor has failed to respond to the warning signs of an impending budget crisis and is setting the state up for a fiscal emergency, similar to the fallout from the budget he wrote in 1991.
   The 1991 spending plan resulted in an enormous deficit and the largest tax increase in state history.
   It's clear the governor does not like the spending limit. He opposed it when it was passed by the voters and he has amended it beyond recognition in each of the last two budgets he's proposed.
   If he doesn't want a spending limit, he should simply come out and say so. Taxpayers need to know that he does not plan any tax relief ahead.