Zarelli: Gather Legislature to fix budget

Moeller: Session would be used for GOP grandstanding

By Kathie Durbin, Columbian staff writer

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A Republican legislator from Clark County renewed his call Thursday for a special session this fall to address a dire revenue forecast that will require another round of state agency budget cuts this year.

“It would be better for the Legislature to convene for a short special session, because we can do things the governor can’t,” said state Sen. Joe Zarelli, R-Ridgefield, the ranking Republican on the budget-writing Senate Ways and Means Committee.

“We can make policy and structural changes that would focus the available revenue on the most essential services, and leave enough in reserve to get the state through June, when the biennium ends,” Zarelli said in a statement. “We can also adopt reforms that would help when it’s time to write the 2011-13 budget.”

But state Rep. Jim Moeller, D-Vancouver, accused Zarelli and other Republican leaders of playing politics with the latest revenue bad news.

“The Republican Party has not offered or presented a state budget,” Moeller said in a statement. “They have no plan. But they have a message and would like you to pay for it. … There’s no economic, constitutional or public good that would be served by a special session.”

Moeller noted that Gov. Chris Gregoire has ordered across-the-board cuts of up to 7 percent that will affect most state agencies and departments. “In this way, the budget the Legislature and governor approved will remain intact, but will revised proportionally” to match diminished revenue, he said.

He said legislators will have a much clearer view of the revenue picture when they reconvene in January, after the holiday season.

Cost-cutting ideas

Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, like Zarelli a member of the State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council, urged Gregoire to order an immediate moratorium on all rulemaking activities by state agencies.

“This will allow us tangible and immediate budget savings, will provide regulatory certainty to our employers,” and will allow employers to focus on their businesses “rather than constantly having to defend themselves against the barrage of rules being proposed by state agencies,” he said.

Meanwhile, Zarelli joined forces with Sen. Margarita Prentice, the Ways and Means Committee’s Democratic chair, in appealing to state employees to come forward with their own ideas for cutting costs.

In an e-mail that went out to more than 50,000 state employees Thursday morning, Prentice and Zarelli wrote: “We firmly believe front-line state employees represent a great untapped resource that can help the Legislature address these fiscal concerns. It is you who have the intimate knowledge of the inner workings of your agency. It is you who are aware of what works and what doesn’t, what can be done away with and what needs to be enhanced.”