December 20, 2007

Upon Further Review…..

By Randy Hodgins

I’ve now had a chance to examine the Governor’s 2008 supplemental budget in a bit more detail, helped along quite a bit by a detailed breakdown of her spending plan prepared by the staff of the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

This analysis looks not only at state general fund spending, but what budget analysts in Olympia refer to as “near general fund” expenditures, which includes spending from other funds and accounts that get their revenue from broad based tax sources.  Over the past several years, the near general fund has been the generally accepted way of tracking overall state operating budget spending.

The Ways and Means analysis concludes that the Governor’s 2008 supplemental budget spends a “net” amount of $234 million from the near general fund, $144 million of which comes just from the state general fund itself.  The term “net” is important because the $234 million figure is a combination of both budget enhancements as well as budget reductions or savings.  For example, $31 million is added to the budget as a maintenance level adjustment for the increased costs of the I-732 COLA, while $106 million is subtracted from the budget for the PEBB rate reduction we discussed in an earlier posting the day the Governor’s budget was released.

The other thing that jumps out at you when you study this budget summary is how many of the policy adjustments in the supplemental budget are dedicated to health care, human services and corrections, and conversely, how little is spent on K-12 and higher education.  Now, to be totally fair, the underlying two-year budget for education is extremely beneficial for all education sectors and nothing in the Governor’s supplemental budget proposal takes away from that reality.  However, some education advocates have already expressed disappointment with the 2008 spending proposal because of the dearth of new K-12 investments in particular, and the higher level of spending in other areas of the budget are likely to fuel those criticisms further.

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