Collaboration in Civic Spheres

State of Washington spending up 57 percent from 1999-2011

by Matt Rosenberg November 29th, 2011

House Bill 2127 is the focus of the Washington State Legislature’s special session which began Monday amidst noisy protests and the urgent strains of Barry McGuire’s 1965 anti-war anthem, “Eve of Destruction” blaring loudly from a big tent on the Capitol lawn in Olympia, to the smiles of passers-by.

Introduced by Rep. Ross Hunter at the request of Gov. Christine Gregoire, HB 2127 would revise the current 2011-2013 state budget downward by almost $2 billion, leaving a $600 million surplus. Reductions in budgeted spending are detailed in the bill for a range of social service, education and other programs. Concerns about those reductions in planned spending brought crowds of protestors to Olympia Monday, chanting, among other things, “no cuts.”

Protestors march along north side of Capitol Nov. 28 in Olympia/Matt Rosenberg

Their concerns are real. Among a long list of reductions in planned spending, HB 2127 calls for $216 million less than originally budgeted this biennium in special ed funding (pp. 151-152); $163 million less than planned for education “local effort assistance” (p. 155); $404 million less for education “general apportionment” spending (p. 131); and $616 million less in planned spending by the state’s health care authority (p. 74).

If state budget cuts are defined as lowering planned spending increases, there have been steady cuts in recent years. But if cuts are defined as lowering overall spending from one state budget to the next, that has not occurred; just the opposite, in fact. The Washington state web site fiscal.wa.gov summarizes actual state spending in the last six and the current biennia, and the totals show it grew 57 percent percent from 1999-2001 through 2009-2011, from $45 billion to $71 billion. The fiscal.wa.gov site is sponsored and maintained by the state’s Office of Fiscal Management and Washington’s Legislative Evaluation and Accountability Program.

If the currently approved 2011-2013 state budget were maintained, through creation of new revenues including a proposed half-cent statewide sales tax voters would need to okay, then the $74 billion tab would represent a 64 percent increase since 1999. Measured from the 2001-2003 biennium, spending through 2009-2011 grew 42 percent, and if the current 2011-2013 budget is restored that would represent a 48 percent increase.

State spending 1999-2001 to 2011-13/fiscal.wa.gov

However, the budgeted $74 billion for 2011-2013 is only four percent more than the $71 billion spent in 2009-2011.

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