The first step to getting out of a hole is not only to stop digging, but also to get out of the hole as soon as possible, before it can get even deeper.
Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, and the economic slowdown caused by Gov. Jay Inslee’s Stay Home, Stay Safe executive order, the state budget is in a precarious situation. The June 17 revenue forecast is expected to see a dramatic reduction in anticipated tax revenues, combined with unemployment claims and a greater need for the social safety net. While this revenue would be more than last biennium’s budget, we would still see a budget hole that is likely to grow deeper every day it is not addressed.
By acting quickly, we may be able to take enough common-sense steps to help mitigate the harm to taxpayers and those who rely on government services.
The Legislature has been kept on the sideline for most of the last three months. It’s long past time for the governor to call the Legislature back into session to address the pandemic, the budget crisis, and a host of other important issues. If he fails to do so, legislators should call themselves back to Olympia for a special session through a super majority vote.
Nearly every day, lawmakers receive calls, letters and emails from constituents who are pleading for our help and intervention.
In one letter, a woman wrote:
“I feel that the Employment Security Department is failing us taxpayers. …This is when we need you (our state legislators) the most! …My husband is getting ready to deploy overseas and I should not have to worry about financial issues on top of the stresses we are already dealing with.”
Unfortunately, my fellow lawmakers and I are left with little we can do on their behalf. We have sent many letters to the governor, most of which have been ignored.
The governor has proven that he can’t do the job alone, nor should he have to. The Legislature’s lawmaking authority puts it in a better position to respond to this emergency in meaningful ways that respect the people’s concerns.
It makes the most sense for lawmakers to return in June, ahead of the state’s new fiscal year, which will make our budget decisions more effective.
If the governor fails to bring us back to Olympia, then as lawmakers we have the option to call ourselves back into session with a super majority vote. The people want their elected representatives on the job, reflecting their interests, and fighting to pull the state out of the hole – before it’s too late.