Shea proposes balanced budget amendment to stave off shortfalls, tax increases

Rep. Matt Shea says it’s time for the Legislature to stop the repeated cycle of overspending and then attempting to cover the resulting shortfalls with tax increases. The 4th District lawmaker says he has a solution: a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced state operating budget.

Shea recently introduced House Joint Resolution 4225. The measure proposes to ask voters in November to adopt an amendment to the state constitution requiring a balanced budget.

“There is nothing in state law that says the Legislature or the governor is required to adopt a balanced state budget. The only requirement in statute is that the governor must propose a balanced budget,” said Shea.

“The reason we are in this budget mess is that the Legislature has not had the political will to say ‘no’ when it comes to spending. In good years, it has spent beyond budget surpluses, so there’s little money in savings to cover the bad years. And it continues to overspend and adopt unsustainable budgets, even in years when the economy is struggling,” added Shea, R-Spokane Valley. “Now the governor wants a half-billion dollar tax increase to cover the bad decisions of the Legislature. This needs to stop!”

The measure would require that spending in the budget is no higher than 95 percent of projected revenues. Any remaining balance from the previous budget would be rolled into the next budget cycle.

“This would keep the Legislature from spending beyond its means and protect against future shortfalls,” noted Shea.

If passed by the Legislature, the measure would need approval from Washington voters in order to change the state constitution. Shea believes citizens would easily pass such a measure.

“Year after year, revenue continues to grow and yet we have budget shortfalls because we’re spending way more than we’re taking in. Just like every person in Washington state who is going through hard times right now has had to balance his or her checkbook, this measure would help the state rein in its own finances so that our kids and grandkids won’t have to deal with this situation 20 years from now,” said Shea. “It’s time to say ‘enough,’ pass a balanced budget amendment, and hold the Legislature accountable for its spending.”

The measure has been referred to the House Ways and Means Committee for further consideration.

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Washington State House Republican Communications