Budget info per your request, Governor: Potential agencies and programs to eliminate

Jason Mercier
Evergreen Freedom Foundation

3/7/05

Olympia, WA - At a March 3 press conference, Governor Christine Gregoire mentioned she had requested her budget office to provide a list of agencies and programs she could outright eliminate to help address the current budget difficulties. Since we have just completed a review of former Governor Gary Locke's 2005-07 budget proposal, the Evergreen Freedom Foundation (EFF) will advance our suggestions to Governor Gregoire.

In building a budget, there are several sifting mechanisms that should be applied to proposed expenditures to determine their priority ranking. The first review should determine whether or not the proposed expenditure is a core function of government. If the expenditure passes that review, it can then be balanced against other expenditures using a priorities of government (POG) review. If not, it should be removed from consideration.

Using POG, budget writers should ask and answer the following questions:

1) How much money does the state have? (What is the existing and forecasted revenue?)

2) What does the state want to accomplish? (What are the essential services we must deliver to citizens?)

3) How will the state measure its progress in meeting those goals?

4) What is the most effective way to accomplish the state's goals with the money available?

By following the POG process, agency programs and activities are prioritized to determine the most cost-effective purchases the state can make in order to meet a specific priority. Essentially this creates a "buy" list for budget writers to determine what activities to purchase. This means everything a budget writer decides to purchase, is by definition, a higher priority than those activities not purchased. For example, if in a POG-based budget, art is purchased, but not dental care for the poor, budget writers have determined by that action that art is a higher priority than dental care for the poor. A budget built on priorities of government ranks its "buy" list by what is most important.

Before even starting a POG review, activities that are clearly not core functions of government should be removed from consideration to free up time, energy and money for activities that government officials consider to be most important.

While not everyone will agree on the definition of a core function of government, the following programs and activities should be reviewed for potential elimination. This is especially important as discussions surface where the only remedy forwarded in lieu of tax increases is to cut vital services. With that in mind, below are some suggestions per Governor Gregoire's request.

(All dollars general fund state unless noted)
Economic Development
Lawmakers' desires to improve Washington's economy are commendable. But the proper role of government in the realm of economic growth is to "do no harm," not to pick and choose the economy's winners and losers. That being the case, one must question whether targeted assistance to some industries and employers is a core function of government. Why some and not all? Why any? If the programs listed below are core functions of government, they should remain, and perhaps in the case of business interests, those who receive benefit should not object to paying fees (taxes) for the services. If the programs listed are not core functions of government, they should be considered for elimination:

Marketing and Economic Development (Department of Agriculture) - $2,067,000 ($501,000 other funds);

Inland Northwest Technology Center (Work Force Training & Education Coordinating Board) - $970,000;

Tourism Development (Community, Trade, and Economic Development [CTED]) - $7,201,000 ($286,000 other funds);

Operation of the Legislative Committee on Economic Development (Lt. Governor's Office) - $417,000;

Agriculture Commodities Commission (Department of Agriculture) - $10,000 (Industry trade associations are capable of assuming the responsibilities of the various commodities commissions.);

Business and Project Development Assistance (CTED) - $4,828,000 ($1,441,000 other funds);

Washington Technology Center (CTED) - $5,676,000;

All activities of the Horse Racing Commission - $8,607,000 other funds;

International Export Promotion Program (CTED) - $2,234,000 ($276,000 other funds);

Overseas Office Contract Activities (CTED) - $2,203,000;

Agricultural Fairs (Department of Agriculture) - $4,227,000 other funds;

Local Economic Development Financial Assistance (CTED) - $1,657,000

Economic Development Finance Lending (CTED) - $1,407,000 ($47,000 other funds);

Farm Worker Housing (CTED) - $1,219,000 other funds;

Small Farm and Direct Marketing (Department of Agriculture) - $150,000 ($50,000 other funds);

Local Economic Development Capacity Building (CTED) - $956,000 ($938,000 other funds);

Film and Video Office (CTED) - $897,000;

Small Business Export Finance Center of Washington (CTED) - $550,000;

Hanford Area Economic Investment Fund (CTED) - $504,000 other funds;

Mobile Home Relocation Assistance (CTED) - $401,000 other funds;

All activities of the Spokane Intercollegiate R&T Institute - $3,027,000 ($1,395,000 other funds);

Retired Senior Volunteer Program (CTED) - $382,000;

Local Export Development for Spokane (CTED) - $210,000

Community Economic Revitalization Board and Program (CTED) - $181,000 ($521,000 other funds);

Agricultural Promotion and Protections (Department of Agriculture) - $1,042,000 ($1,422,000 other funds);

Energy Economic Development (CTED) - $143,000 ($192,000 other funds); and

All activities of the Washington State Convention and Trade Center - $77,154,000 other funds.

Equal Protection
A basic tenet of a free society is that all citizens should receive equal protection under the law. In other words, Washington should not discriminate or treat its citizens differently. For this reason, the following programs could be considered for elimination:

All activities of the Commission on African American Affairs - $604,000 (State policy should not distinguish between Washingtonians. Numerous non-profit and special interest groups are capable of advocating on behalf of ethnic concerns.);

All activities of the Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs - $600,000;

All activities of the Commission on Hispanic Affairs - $611,000; and

All activities of the Office of Minority and Women's Business Enterprises - $3,185,000 other funds.

Discretionary Spending
Based on a priorities-of-government budget that is first filtered against a core functions of government review, Washington should consider elimination of various discretionary programs; especially at a time of tight budget constraints. For this reason, the following programs could be considered for elimination:

All activities of the Arts Commission - $4,677,000 ($1,300,000 other funds);

Civil Indigent Legal Services (CTED) - $10,390,000 ($2,986,000 other funds) (This program should not be confused with the Office of Public Defense which provides funding to indigent criminal defendants on appeal. Rather this program provides civil legal services to indigent clients. Non-profits and a consortium of community-minded lawyers may be willing to take on pro-bono work for indigent clients if encouraged by the Washington State Bar Association.);

Early Childhood Education and Assistance (CTED) - $10,000,000 (The legislative intent section for this program (RCW 28A.215.100) states (emphasis added): "It is the intent of the legislature to establish an early childhood state education and assistance program. This special assistance program is a voluntary enrichment program to help prepare some children to enter the common school system and shall be offered only as funds are available. This program is not a part of the basic program of education which must be fully funded by the legislature under Article IX, section 1 of the state Constitution." It is clear from the legislative intent this is a discretionary program not part of basic education and was to be funded only as funds are available.);

State Agency Rider Pass/Guaranteed Ride Home (Department of General Administration) - $416,000 other funds (Altering state employee driving behavior by offering free-transit passes is not likely a core function of government.);

Funding for higher education remediation courses for recent high school graduates - $19,000,000 (High schools that graduate students who have not mastered basic subject matter should be charged the cost of any remediation course necessary.);

Early Childhood Education and Assistance (Department of Social and Health Services [DSHS]) - $54,111,000 (The legislative intent section for this program (RCW 28A.215.100) states (emphasis added): "It is the intent of the legislature to establish an early childhood state education and assistance program. This special assistance program is a voluntary enrichment program to help prepare some children to enter the common school system and shall be offered only as funds are available. This program is not a part of the basic program of education which must be fully funded by the legislature under Article IX, section 1 of the state Constitution." It is clear from the legislative intent this is a discretionary program not part of basic education and was to be funded only as funds are available.);

Immigrant State Food Assistance (DSHS) - $11,169,000 (This program "provides food assistance for legal immigrants who are no longer eligible for federal food assistance." This is a discretionary program; numerous non-profits and other state funded food bank activities are available for assistance.);

Student Achievement Fund/other I-728 diversions (Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction [OSPI]) - $809,200,000 (In the 2000 election, voters approved I-728 (class size reduction) based on the following statements made by I-728 supporters during the election and in the voter's pamphlet:

"Without raising taxes, I-728 lets schools reduce class sizes, expand learning opportunities, increase teacher training, invest in early childhood education, and build classrooms for K-12 and higher education."

"We can afford to invest in our schools and our future without raising taxes or taking money away from other programs. I-728 is funded by lottery proceeds, surplus state revenues and by returning a portion of state property taxes to local school districts."

"I-728 is both necessary and fiscally sound. It invests surplus revenues in education without hurting the state budget."

"I-728 does not raise taxes. I-728 maintains ample reserves and funding for other state services."

When surplus budget revenues no longer existed, the legislature amended (reduced) funding for I-728. The voters recently had the opportunity to address the lack of a funding mechanism in the original I-728 bill in the form of I-884 to, in-part, provide funding for I-728's objectives but the electorate rejected I-884 by a 2 to1 margin. I-728 was not supposed to necessitate a tax increase nor harm the fiscal soundness of the state budget and is now accounting for $809.2 million (more than Locke's $598 million tax increase proposal) of potential revenue that is being diverted from the general fund state for the 2005-07 budget.);

Automatic Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA) For Teachers (I-732) (OSPI) - $120,100,000 (In the 2000 election, voters approved I-732 (COLA for teachers) based on the following statement made by I-732 supporters during the election and in the voter's pamphlet:

"With a $1.1 billion surplus, let's use existing resources for more competitive salaries."

As was the case with I-728, when surplus budget revenues disappeared the legislature suspended I-732. I-884 attempted to provide the funding mechanism originally lacking in I-732 but was rejected by the voters.);

Statewide Commute Trip Reduction Program (Department of Transportation) - $7,151,000 other funds (Altering driver behavior through subsidies is not likely a core function of government.); and

Public service (University of Washington) - $2,367,000 ($7,756,000 other funds) (Paying for students, faculty and staff to provide non-instructional community service is not likely a core function of government.).


Competing with the Private Sector
Government should only provide those services not widely available in the private sector, i.e. activities that are clearly commercial in nature are not core functions of government. For this reason, the following programs could be considered for elimination:

State Liquor Store Operations (Liquor Control Board [LCB]) - $101,195,000 other funds (All state liquor store operations could be sold with enforcement activities retained by the LCB);

Liquor Warehouse and Distributions (LCB) - $24,665,000 other funds;

Contract Liquor Store Operations (LCB) - $22,331,000 other funds;

Liquor Purchasing and Merchandising (LCB) - $1,389,000 other funds; and

All activities of the Department of Printing - $65,853,000 other funds (Operation of a public printer is not likely a core function of government. All department assets could be sold since market demand will likely attract necessary private sector competition to service government's printing needs.).

Total potential savings: $1,079,037,000 ($337,408,000 other funds)

Conclusion
EFF applauds Governor Gregoire's request for suggestions of programs determined not to be core functions of government. While the preceding list is not all-encompassing, it is a good place to start. Doing so would allow budget writers and legislators to focus their time and energy on prioritizing the state's remaining activities to help create a truly prioritized "buy" list. Once Governor Gregoire and the legislature release their budgets, people will clearly be able to tell what the state determines to be its priorities. By virtue of what they decide to purchase, we'll know what's important to lawmakers; we will be able to determine whether or not we agree. If, on the other hand, the budget isn't truly prioritized (i.e., purchases for low priority programs made in place of high priorities), we will be left to wonder just how committed Olympia is to being a good steward of our tax dollars.

Jason Mercier is a budget analyst for the Evergreen Freedom Foundation, a non-partisan, public policy watchdog organization, focused on advancing individual liberty, a free-market economy, and limited and responsible government.

Prepared by: Jason Mercier | Budget Research Analyst | 360.956.3482

 

 

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