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In this episode of KCTS 9 Connects, we take a look at the outcome of the legislative session: which bills passed, which didn't, and what it means for you, the taxpayer.
Also, Cathy Allen, Chris Vance, Joni Balter and Joel Connelly discuss the 2011 legislative session in-depth.
Well, they did it.
Lawmakers adjourned last week after more than four months of hearings, committees, and floor sessions in Olympia. And they accomplished the main task they set out to do: Balance a $5.1 billion deficit in the state budget.
They said it wouldn’t be easy, and by all accounts it wasn’t. It took the entire 105 day session, plus a 30 day special session to get it done.
They said the budget cuts would be painful, and by all accounts they are. Thousands are losing health care coverage and disability benefits; teachers and state workers are taking a pay cut; aid to state universities is going down while tuition is going up.
They said the deficit was so bad that anything that cost more money wouldn’t make it through, and by all accounts that’s true. Voter approved plans to reduce class sizes were put on hold (yet again), while bills to deal with issues such as gang violence were tabled because they required new spending.
But you know what else?
They said that lawmakers would have to really work together to solve the deficit, and by all accounts they did. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle negotiated closely, and Republicans -- accustomed to being marginalized by the Democratic majority -- admitted they were pleased that all sides worked together.
They said they’d look seriously at government waste, and by all accounts they did. One bill cancelled the 2012 Presidential Primary -- an election that would have cost taxpayers $10 million even though the results would have been meaningless because our state actually uses caucuses to choose delegates in presidential races.
They said they’d respect voter wishes not to raise taxes, and by all accounts they did. The balanced budget relies on user fees instead of across-the-board tax increases, and even eliminates some taxes such as the restaurant and rental car taxes associated with the building of Safeco Field.
To be sure, the budget’s not perfect. A lot of things got cut. But a lot of things were saved too. Not everyone’s going to be happy. As State Sen. Joseph Zarelli put it, “Everybody’s going to have their plusses and minuses.”
The budget may not be perfect, but they did it.