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Snoqualmie Valley's state reps call for budget reform
Fifth District State Representatives Jay Rodne and Glenn Anderson called for serious reforms to the state budget during a visit to the Snoqualmie Valley Chamber of Commerce.
Anderson, R-Fall City, and Rodne, R-North Bend, addressed transportation and private property issues at the monthly chamber meeting held Friday, April 16, in Snoquamie.
But most of their remarks were firmly focused on the financial future of Washington. Rodne and Anderson both voted no on the state's supplemental budget, passed early Tuesday, April 13, in Olympia.
Anderson said all legislators knew going into the session that the state faced severe budget challenges in balancing a $2.8 billion shortfall. In January, they received a letter from the state treasurer stating that Washington would be cash broke by September.
But in their final analysis, spending cuts made up less than a quarter of the budget fix.
"When you add on federal bailout dollars, state spending actually increased," Anderson said.
The final package added $1.8 billion in new taxes, the bulk of which are business-oriented, he added.
Rodne said that the tenor of the session was established early on, with the suspension of Initiative 960, which mandates supermajority votes in the legislature for tax hikes.
"That really did change the tone," Rodne said. "That says 'We're going to do it our way, regardless.'"
Anderson told the chamber that such initiatives as public employee union benefit cuts and a state auditor investigation of state pension investment agreements with Wall Street got minimal consideration by majority Democrats.
"Those employees got raises and everyone else got raised taxes," he said.
Rodne said he expects a $4 billion deficit in 2011.
"If we don't get reforms passed, if there is a complete unwillingness to address this, you're going to see massive sales tax increases," he said. "We've got to get a hard grip on public employee pensions and benefits, and get our economy moving, create competitive, family-wage, private-sector jobs."
"We're need to fix this, or it's going to break and it's going to hurt," Anderson added.
"I am fed up," Chamber member Patricia Bennett told Anderson. "I don't want to sit down and watch it anymore. I want to know what I can do."
"Talk to everybody you know, everyone you network with," he answered. "The challenge is our political system. That is the vehicle for change.
"This is not a partisan issue," Rodne added. "A lot of folks are concerned by the unsustainability of our budget."
Mount Si and property rights
Rodne said he was pleased that the legislature restored funding to trailheads in the Snoqualmie Valley. Rodne hailed the leadership of the North Bend and Snoqualmie city councils in advocating to restore the funding.
In the next session, Rodne said he plans to continue his fight for expanded private property rights in Washington. He seeks stronger laws protecting property owners from eminent domain.
The state constitution already says that government cannot seize property for private economic gain. But Rodne said there have been instances where judges have abused that right.
"Private property rights are the wellspring of all our rights and protections," Rodne said.
Rodne discussed state plans for Interstate 405 and the Highway 520 bridge replacement. Early tolls on the 520 bridge would add significant funding capacity for that project.
"There was got to be additional means to pay for this structure," Rodne said.
However, Rodne opposes new HOT, or high occupancy tolls, on 405. A pilot model of HOT lanes at Southcenter did not pay for itself.
"Why replicate failure?" Rodne asked. As of April, there will be new HOT lanes opening on 405 in 2011.
"We could not get a clear answer as to whether there were going to be additional lanes or tak(ing) existing general purpose lanes and converting them to HOT lanes," he said. "Converting them is only going to exacerbate congestion on 405. That's the most congested roadway in the state."