State Think Tank Recommends Innovative Ways to Balance State Budget


Washington Policy Center

Seattle, WA-- State legislators face a $2.5 billion budget deficit in the 2003-05 biennium. Today Governor Gary Locke presents his budget proposal, which was developed using a new Priorities of Government system. By defining clear priorities for government, and evaluating spending on a system-wide basis, Governor Locke is moving in the right direction.

"While the Governor's approach is an innovative and welcome start, eliminating the deficit will require a fundamental change in the way state government works," said Washington Policy Center President Dann Mead Smith. "In an upcoming study, policy analyst Eric Montague will present a number of practical, commonsense recommendations to reduce the deficit, improve the efficiency and flexibility of state agencies, and maintain services at a high level without raising taxes." Some of those recommendations include:

· Restore I-601 limits on future state spending growth.
· Adopt a flexible freeze on state hiring.
· Eliminate positions that have been vacant for more than a six months.
· Sell buildings and other real estate properties.
· Allow State Auditor to conduct comprehensive performance audits.
· Remove inflated prevailing wage costs for school and highway construction.
· Give agency heads immediate authority to contract out state services.
· Privatize state-run liquor stores.
· Improve economic competitiveness with tax and regulatory reform.

"While implementing these reforms may not solve the entire state budget shortfall, they will help ensure we do not face similar situations in the future," said Mead Smith. "Without long-term reforms that address the underlying problems with state spending, Washington taxpayers will be forced to shoulder an ever-increasing tax burden."


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