Local lawmakers assess latest state budget

2012-04-16T21:00:00Z 2012-04-18T09:49:02Z Local lawmakers assess latest state budgetBy Barbara LaBoe / The Daily News Longview Daily News
April 16, 2012 9:00 pm  • 

How well did the Legislature do its job in the recently complete legislative session? That depends on who you ask.

Local Democrats said they're pleased with the overall outcome, especially the ability to avoid deep budget cuts to education.

"Given the budget differences we had, I think it went pretty well," said state Rep. Dean Takko, D-Longview.

"I think overall it was a huge success," said state Sen. Brian Hatfield, D-Raymond. "For a moderate like me it was sort of a dream. ... If you had told me at the beginning that we'd get a strong, bipartisan budget and almost all the reforms bills we were working on, I would have said you were crazy."

Area Republicans, though, said they were disappointed with some outcomes and hope the November election will shift the balance of power.

"I'm very disappointed," said state Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama. "I think the ending fund balance is too small and relying on local government sales tax (to balance the budget) is too risky. ... And I'm disappointed we didn't do more reforms in the budget."

Rep. Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis, also criticized the final "jobs now" package, saying it doesn't achieve as many jobs as promised and is too expensive. About half the $1.1 billion cost is funded with new general-obligation bonds, which DeBolt said is like "saying 'my Visa is full so I'm going to get a Discover card.' We'll be paying for these two-year jobs for the next 25 years."

However, DeBolt said he was heartened to see more give-and-take during the final budget negotiations, saying minority Republicans were able to play more of a role this year.

"We've had one party controlling everything for so long that they hadn't really asked the other party's opinion much," he said. "This year, because so many people were at the table, I think it actually made for a better budget."

Takko said he wished the session hadn't taken as long as it did — including a double overtime special session — but said it was needed to find agreement among all the members.

"I thought it was a reasonable budget," Takko said. And he said he was pleased to see the $38.5 million for Lower Columbia College's new health and science building survive the budget cuts and also was glad education was not cut deeply.

Hatfield said that all sides seemed to get something, whether it was cuts in the budget, the jobs bill or reforms to the process.

Republicans though, blamed Democratic majority for the delays.

"They didn't seem to get down to really serious negotiations until the end," Orcutt said. "We had three weeks of a special session and 60 days of regular session and then 31 days of special session — we went longer than a regular long session. And that's when you write the entire biennium budget, not just amending the existing one."

Takko said he worries about how lawmakers will meet the requirements of a court order to better fund education given that money is still tight.

"It's going to be challenging in the next couple of bienniums," he said. "We've got to show we're pumping more money into education. And if income isn't increasing all that much, we have to take it from somewhere else."

Hatfield, though, said he thinks moderate lawmakers can build on the bipartisanship agreement they found at the very end of their budget sessions. "Next year, regardless of who is in the majority, if we have a group in the center that's willing to stick together ... I think we can continue that success."

Copyright 2015 Longview Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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