News Snubbing Both the Governor and the State Senate, the State House…
posted by March 26 at 15:51 PMon
…passed its version of the budget today and did not include a rainy day fund.
At the beginning of this year’s session, Governor Gregoire requested and the state senate passed (unanimously) a Budget Stabilization Account bill (aka a “Rainy Day Fund”).
The idea is this: Every budget cycle, a certain percentage of revenues is set aside into a savings account. That money can only be accessed by a simple majority vote in years when economic growth is below one percent (slamming revenues) or if there’s a state of emergency (an earthquake, a volcano etc.) Otherwise, it takes a super majority vote to get at the money.
Creating such an account would take a constitutional amendment: a two-thirds vote in the senate (which happened); a two-thirds vote in the house; and then a simple majority vote of the people this November.
However, judging by the “architecture” of the budget (to use House Appropriations Committee jargon) that the house passed today, it doesn’t look like they’re on board with the “Rainy Day Fund” idea. Or at least, it doesn’t look like House Appropriations Chair Helen Sommers (D-36, Seattle) is into it. The senate’s “Rainy Day Fund” bill has been sitting in the House Appropriations Committee for over a month.
The house passed a $29.8 billion general-fund budget today with a $510 million reserve fund. (All in all, with dedicated accounts and federal money, it’s a $56 billion budget with a $654 million reserve fund.) Reserve funds are intended for easy access in the second year of the budget cycle to help fund state programs, and they don’t require the kinds of access prerequisites I mentioned above.
Meanwhile, the senate is poised to pass its budget this week. If indeed the senate budget includes a budget stabilization account rather than the traditional reserve account passed by the house, the “Rainy Day Fund” idea will come to a head when the two houses synthesize their budgets later in the session.
UPDATE: Senate sources say, indeed, the Senate budget will factor in the “Rainy Day Fund.”