Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Governorís Comments before Legislative Fiscal Committees
January 15, 2003
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee.
Thank you for inviting me here today to talk about my proposed budget for the 2003-2005 Biennium.
Iím pleased to be here, and I want to stress that I will be available throughout this legislative session to work with all of you.
We all know it will be a challenging year for budget writers considering our $2.4 billion deficit.
These are difficult times in our state.
Thousands of people have lost their jobs.
Families are suffering.
Businesses are struggling.
We know that it will take time for our economy to recover.
That's why I am proposing a General Fund budget with no general tax increase.
A general tax increase in these tough economic times will hurt, not help, our economic recovery.
We need a budget that requires us to live within our means, just like all Washington families.
As you all know, in the past three years our state has experienced unprecedented political and economic developments.
The September 11 terrorist attacks exacerbated our national recession.
All of this has come together to create the largest deficit in state history.
Voters have approved initiatives to roll back taxes, and at the same time they have approved initiatives to spend more money.
This basic contradiction Ė this budgeting by initiative without weighing competing costs and benefits Ė was difficult but manageable here in Olympia when times were good.
But times have changed.
We can no longer afford some of the things weíd like to do.
The dot.com implosion . . . the terrorist attacks of September 11 . . Boeing layoffs . . . the declines in the stock market . . . the loss of values in 401K plans.
These events combined to put us in the worst fiscal bind in 20 years.
We must meet our difficulties by making hard choices.
Those choices are in our budget proposal.
Iíve heard my proposal described as a process rather than a result.
I want to stress that it is both.
Weíve devoted considerable time and effort to prioritizing all the activities of this government.
We propose funding those programs and services that contribute the most to the results that citizens expect and want from government.
Last August we recognized the difficulties we would be facing in trying to write the budget for the next biennium.
Thatís when we decided we needed to do things differently.
We decided that the best approach was to start anew, and build a budget driven by priorities and clear evidence that the programs we choose to fund really work.
The result of this process is a budget that makes tough but necessary choices Ė funding those things most vital to citizens with the money we have.
Where do we go from here?
First, I ask that you follow the same approach we did, answering four basic questions:
How much money do we have to work with in the 2003-05 Biennium?
What results do our citizens want most from state government?
How much money can we allocate to each result?
How best can we spend allocated funds to achieve the results?
As a long-time budget writer, I can tell you that this Priorities of Government approach helped us see the broad range of our state government responsibilities more clearly.
It helped us see each activity in relation to the others.
It helped us make choices about which activities of government are the most important.
Does this program or that service really get the job done?
The process my office undertook should not end with my budget proposal.
It should continue in this committee, in the Senate, and in the House.
I ask this committee and the Legislature to talk about what the priorities of this state should be.
Letís talk and debate about the best way to attain our priorities.
Then letís decide on a budget that does the best we can for our people.
Letís act swiftly and show the people that we are a government of action.
We know what the problems are.
Letís decide on the solutions.
We must earn back the trust of the citizens.
We must show the people of this state that we have set priorities, that we know the best way to achieve them, and that we are ready to do it with the money we have.
We will begin to restore public trust by agreeing to a budget that does these things.