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Washington state budget director Marty Brown sends letter to lawmakers urging quicker action on solving budget shortfall

Post by Peter Callaghan / The News Tribune on Dec. 5, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
December 5, 2011 1:12 pm

Marty Brown, the director of the state Office of Financial Management, is urging lawmakers in their second week of special session, to take action soon on Gov. Chris Gregoire‘s proposal to solve a $2 billion budget gap.

Brown, a former Senate staff member and has served as budget director under both Gregoire and former Gov. Gary Locke, said the current proposal requires cuts to be ready to implement next month.

“If we go to February or later our assumed savings drop and other more difficult decisions need to be made,” Brown wrote.

Marty Brown
His comments come in the wake of statements by legislative budget writers that they might wait until the regular session in January to act on the budget issue. Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Ed Murray even said last week that it would be “irresponsible” to act on the budget cuts this month.

But Brown said in his letter that “time is of the essence.”

“Our state government spends about $41 million a day. Every day that goes by, we can’t get that money back. Your state agencies need time to put into effect the policy and budget changes that affect clients and providers all over the state,” Brown wrote.

The budget boss expressed sympathy for lawmakers and the job facing them but wants them to pick up the pace a bit.

“What you are doing right now is hard,” Brown wrote. “Having helped the Governor with her decisions I have a good idea what is in front of you and it is daunting.”

Here’s the entire letter from Brown:

Subject: The urgency of budget action
Importance: High

Members of the Legislature:

Many of you know that I worked for nearly 20 years as a legislative committee staff member, on caucus staff and in legislative administration. I have worked with most of you and very closely with two Governors as budget director and know how seriously you take your responsibilities. I know that all of us, elected officials and staff, want what is best for the people of Washington. We know that the numbers in the budget represent real people who need services. We also know that we can’t afford all the services we are currently providing right now.

During my time on legislative staff, I worked with members to cut budgets, craft revenue proposals and even helped draft the state lottery during the recession in the early 1980’s. I can’t say I fully understand how gut-wrenching the decisions you have to make are because I have never run for office or faced the voters following these decisions. What you are doing right now is hard. Having helped the Governor with her decisions I have a good idea what is in front of you and it is daunting.

When I served as legislative staff, I always thought after the budget was adopted it was over and done with. I was wrong. Now I’ve spent nearly 15 years in the executive branch and know how hard it can be to implement the decisions made in an adopted budget. Our state government spends about $41 million a day. Every day that goes by, we can’t get that money back. Your state agencies need time to put into effect the policy and budget changes that affect clients and providers all over the state.

Faced with all this, I do want to say that time is of the essence. Many of the savings assumptions in the Governor’s proposals are based upon January implementation dates. If we go to February or later our assumed savings drop and other more difficult decisions need to be made. I intended to make some of these points in my testimony earlier this week but circumstances prevented it.

My staff and I are always available to help if needed. Thank you for your service in these very difficult times.

Marty Brown

OFM

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