Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Archive for the ‘Budget’ Category

Pacific County public hospital district trying to stay afloat

by Zachariah Bryan June 4th, 2012

On the rural coast of Washington in Pacific County, a small but vital critical-care, taxpayer-funded hospital has new interim leadership trying to dig its way out of financial problems that threaten its survival, including a four-fold increase in operating losses from 2007 through 2011. Ocean Beach Hospital in Ilwaco, Wash. is run by Pacific County Public Hospital District No. 3, which was founded in 1995 and also operates a clinic in Ilwaco and another in nearby Naselle.

The district is one of dozens of relatively obscure public bodies in the state which use taxpayer funds to run hospitals, water and irrigation systems, public power utilities, and cemeteries. For the year-round population of the regional tourist mecca known as the Long Beach Peninsula – which includes the town of Long Beach, the fishing port of Ilwaco to its south, and neighboring communities – the district provides emergency and medical care, as well as surgery, and lab and radiology services. The district is overseen by a five-member, elected board of directors. It is managed by executive staff and employs about 170.

Public hospital district is bailing water from its fiscal boat
An accountability report released May 21 by Washington State Auditor Brian Sonntag revealed that the hospital district ended calendar year 2011 about $2 million in debt, and ran at an operating loss of $2.5 million while struggling to collect monies owed. Hospital sources note the facility currently lacks a staff chief surgeon and chief financial officer. Its CEO resigned earlier this year, and an interim leader stepped in. As of March 31, 2012 the district – which in 2011 had operating expenditures of $23,803,700 and operating revenues of $21,256,355 – saw its reserves dwindle to just $91,500. At that same milepost just two months ago, the district owed $2,131,171 to creditors.

State: $12M in yearly lottery ads not boosting ticket sales

by Matt Rosenberg May 21st, 2012

It’s the size of the jackpot and economic factors that really influence the volume of Washington Lottery ticket sales, not the $12 million per year the lottery spends on advertising, according to a newly-released report from Washington State’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee (JLARC). The report concludes, “JLARC found almost no statistically significant relationship between advertising expenditures and ticket sales.” The analysis looked at the period of 2009-11.

WA: one in five social programs checked don’t pencil out

by Matt Rosenberg April 17th, 2012

A new report from the Washington legislature’s non-partisan policy analysis unit, the Washington State Institute For Public Policy, finds that of 98 programs recently reviewed for what researchers liken to an investment advisor’s “buy-sell” list, 79 pass muster financially, with measured per-participant financial benefits to the state which exceed costs; but 19 do not. Another 45 which are identified, haven’t been recently evaluated for cost effectiveness, the report says. Of the new results in the April 2012 report – titled “Return On Investment: Evidence-Based Options to Improve Statewide Outcomes” – the so-called “net present value” (benefits to the state per participant minus costs) was highest for a series of juvenile justice and adult criminal justice programs, and lowest for a sub-group of child and teen prevention and preK-12 education programs including Early Head Start and Even Start.

Seattle inches closer toward rental housing licensing

by Matt Rosenberg April 11th, 2012

The City of Seattle continued today to advance toward implementing a rental housing licensing and inspection program that officials say would be aimed at especially at chronically negligent landlords and tenants who may well be afraid to use the city’s existing complaint-based enforcement process for rental quarters languishing in poor condition. At a meeting of the council’s Housing, Human Servies, Health and Culture Committee, council central staff member Michael Jenkins presented a draft outline of the program being configured by the city’s Department of Planning and Development (DPD). In its current draft form, the plan would require owners of rental housing units to go through a registration and inspection process designed to ensure code violations are repaired, or face a revocation of registration, plus possible fines and a prohibition on re-renting the unit to any new tenant until repairs are made. Problems with plumbing, heating, electrical wiring and conditions of building materials are among the most common issues. The city council in coming months will work to finalize the program and estimate ongoing costs, to be integrated into the city budget for 2013 and coming years.

New report: WA gives taxpayers $29.3 billion in special breaks

by Matt Rosenberg February 1st, 2012

As Washington state lawmakers grapple with either raising taxes or trimming $1.5 billion from the 2011-13 state budget because revenue projections have failed to keep pace with planned spending increases, a new report issued Jan. 31 by the state department of revenue finds Washington grants a wide variety of tax exemptions which add up to $29.3 billion for the current two-year budget period. The biggest single breaks in taxes paid to the state are almost $3 billion in business and occupation taxes on employee income and retail and use sales tax exemptions worth $3.2 billion on personal and professional services, $2 billion on food and food ingredients, and $1.6 billion on motor vehicle and special fuel.

Under state law the detailed report is issued every four years but does not make recommendations on what exemptions to maintain and which to end. Of the 642 exemptions granted, only 452 would be likely to increase revenues, the report states. Exemptions also refer to exclusions, deductions, preferential rates, tax deferrals and credits.

The report warns it’s not possible to say that the $29.3 billion in exemptions would yield the same amount in revenue if ended. (This is because once an exemption is lifted, the associated taxable business activity may decline in volume compared to before). Of the $29.3 billion in tax benefits dispensed by lawmakers, $24 billion is due to exemptions from taxes paid to the state. Exemptions to retail sales and use taxes and the business and occupation tax together account for about four-fifths of that $24 billion in state tax benefits dispensed. Another $5.3 billion in state-authorized tax exemptions come at the local government level.

Included in the report is a summary listing of all tax preferences which would yield some degree of revenue if curtailed. Others which exist but would yield no revenue if ended are so labeled, and marked in red. According to the itemized list, here are some of the largest state-level tax exemptions granted which would produce some amount of revenue if lifted.

Largest business and occupation tax exemptions granted 2011-2013

  • almost $3 billion on employee income
  • $935 million on insurance premiums
  • $673 million on investments by non-financial firms
  • $394 million on health maintenance organizations
  • Largest retail sales and use tax exemptions granted 2011-2013

  • $3.2 billion on personal and professional services
  • $2 billion on food and food ingredients
  • $1.6 billion on motor vehicle fuel and special fuel
  • Largest other tax exemptions granted 2011-2013

  • $1 billion in special fuel tax exemptions
  • $1.1 billion on the real estate excise tax
  • $950.7 million on vehicles used in commerce
  • $843 million on prescription drugs
  • Almost $797 million related to the estate tax
  • To date, there has been no comprehensive state review of the quantifiable economic benefits of the $29.3 billion in state-authorized tax exemptions in the current biennium.

    RELATED: State of Washington spending up 57 percent from 1999-2011, Public Data Ferret.


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    WA transportation funding bills an exercise in caution

    by Matt Rosenberg January 27th, 2012

    A recently released report from a special task force convened by Washington Governor Chris Gregoire says Washington state should settle for no less than $21 billion of a needed $50 billion in surface transportation spending over the next decade to preserve the system and make strategic corridor investments. But if the legislature will be stepping up to that lesser challenge in a big way, it is proceeding quite cautiously so far in the current session. The centerpiece transportation funding bill in the senate, SB 6455, would if passed in current form garner by 2023 little more than one-twentieth of the recommended $21 billion.

    Audit: state could save millions by reducing snail mail

    by Matt Rosenberg November 2nd, 2011

    A performance audit released Tuesday says four large State of Washington agencies that were examined spent almost $10 million dollars last year for un-required bulk mailings. The report from Washington State Auditor Brian Sonntag’s office stops short of saying all the questioned mailings shouldn’t have been done, noting that there are times when for the sake of customer preferences, or because of limited access to technology for some stakeholders, when agencies may determine snail mail is the best option. Nonetheless, the audit said, state government has begun to find ways to save taxpayer funds by handling more business without postal service, and needs to step up such efforts further.