In a time of pinching pennies, it was hard for lawmakers to get their favorite ideas started up as new projects or even studied this session.
And some that did survive were eliminated today at the 11th hour. Gov. Chris Gregoire said she vetoed more than half of all reports and studies called for in the budget.
One veto saves $250,000 by dumping a proposed government-reform commission designed by Sen. Jim Kastama of Puyallup. The idea was to appoint veteran state leaders to a panel that would pick through the budget to find inefficiency and duplication.
But Gregoire wrote to legislators that the panel would itself duplicate work: “While I strongly support these goals, there are programs that address the same concerns.”
Kastama was caught by surprise by the veto. He said Gregoire promised him in a meeting a week before session ended that she would support the commission, and even talked about how members would be appointed. “She went back on her word, plain and simple,” he said.
He said it’s different from the other agencies that audit government because it would actually come up with legislation. “I really don’t think my colleagues are serious about substantial government reform.”
I’m waiting to hear back from the governor’s budget director about this one. UPDATE: Budget director Marty Brown said the governor supports the concept. “She thinks she can do it without spending any money.”
Another $250,000 study axed would have considered consolidation of some of Washington’s 295 school districts. There are too many districts and too much money spent on superintendents’ salaries, said Rep. Sam Hunt of Olympia, who proposed it.
But Gregoire said there’s already a study being done, and the new commission would only distract school districts when they need to be focused on education reforms that will allow the state to apply for federal Race to the Top funding.
Gregoire also vetoed $2.5 million for pilot projects in Spokane and Whatcom counties that aimed to find ways to provide health care to more low-income people on the waiting list for the Basic Health Plan. She said health officials need to focus on maintaining the state’s current care and implementing federal health care reform.
The governor’s veto disappointed Rep. Kelli Linville, a Whatcom resident and architect of the plan. “I don’t think she understood it,” Linville said after the signing. “I obviously did not do a very good job of explaining.”