2012 Session Recap

Published Apr. 12, 2012

2012 Session Recap

A look at the budget process that brought us here.

The legislative budget cycle is two years long. There are two kinds of legislative sessions - regular sessions and special sessions (also called extraordinary sessions). Section 12 of Article II in our State Constitution requires regular legislative sessions that begin on the second Monday in January of each year. In the odd-numbered years the regular session is 105 days long and is when the biennial budget is created to address the upcoming two years. In the even-numbered years the supplemental budget session is 60 days long. The supplemental budget is to address any shortfalls or unanticipated issues that have happened since the biennial budget was created the year before.

Special sessions are called by the Governor to address specific issues, usually the budget. There can be any number of special sessions within the two-year cycle, but they can last no more than 30 days each. As an example, the recent special session called on March 12, 2012 officially ended at midnight on April 10, 2012. Because legislators were so close to reaching a final budget deal, the Governor did not want them to leave and lose their momentum, so at midnight on April 10th she called for a 2nd special session to convene immediately. Legislators worked through the night and at about 6:00 a.m. on the morning of April 11th a final budget agreement was passed.

Below is a snapshot of the last two biennial budget cycles that have brought us to this point in time. In the last four years we have seen budget proposals that would eliminate all community services for half of the people with developmental disabilities who get assistance from our state to the recent budget where all of the current services people receive were spared from cuts.

2009-2011 Biennium:

1. On January 12, 2009 the Legislature convened their regular session to create a biennial budget that would cover state operating costs from July 1, 2009 through June 30, 2011. Regular session ended on April 26, 2009.
2. The March 19, 2009 revenue forecast showed legislators that they were looking at a $9 billion shortfall between the revenue the state expected to have and what they needed to fund all the programs at their current funding level; this meant cuts! Cuts were made and some programs were suspended.
3. January 11, 2010 began the supplemental session; March 11, 2010 was the last day of it. With the budget unfinished, Governor Gregoire called for a special session on March 15, 2010 and asked legislators to complete their work in seven days; this did not happen. The special session ended on April 12, 2010.
4. The June 2010 revenue forecast shows a decline in revenue leaving another $2 billion budget gap.
5. On August 14, 2010 Governor Gregoire proposes a 6.287% across-the-board cut to all programs that are not protected by federal rules or the state constitution. Since about 70% of the operating budget is protected, this left Human Services to take the brunt of the cut.
6. Since the Governor can only do across the board cuts, she called a one day special session (the 2nd special session for 2010) of the legislature on December 11, 2010 for legislators to figure out a more acceptable budget fix.

2011-2013 Biennium:

1. Governor Gregoire released her biennial budget proposal in December 2010 to address a $2 billion shortfall. This biennial budget covers state operating costs from July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2013.
2. Legislators convened their 2011 regular legislative session (105 days) from January 10th through April 24th without being able to agree on a final biennial budget.
3. Since no budget agreement had been reached, the Governor called a thirty day Special Session from April 26, 2011 - May 25, 2011 and a budget was finalized.
4. The negative September 2011 revenue forecast prompted the Governor to release her supplemental budget proposal in October 2011, which included drastic cuts such as eliminating 48% of clients from receiving Medicaid Personal Care and Waiver services that they desperately need.
5. The Governor provided a second budget proposal (Book 2) that called for cuts and new revenue through a proposed half penny increase to the state sales tax.
6. The Governor called the Legislature back for another 30 day special session (2nd special session) on November 28, 2011 but legislators left on December 12, 2011 without completing the budget task.
7. Legislators return on January 9, 2012 for the sixty day supplemental budget session which was to end on March 8, 2012. A surprise move by the minority party in the Senate turned the budget upside down and no agreement could be reached.
8. The Governor called for the 2012 special session to begin on March 12, 2012, but little was accomplished until the last day, April 10, 2012.
9. The Governor directs legislators to stay through the night, calling for the 2012 2nd Special Session at midnight on April 11, 2012. This lasted for about six hours until a final budget compromise was reached around 6:00 a.m. on April 11, 2012.

The economic downturn nationally had a huge effect on our state budget. With half of the people receiving services being proposed to have all their services eliminated, it was time for real action. Advocates from around the state made their voices heard. About a thousand advocates showed up in Olympia on the Capitol steps on November 28, 2011 to tell legislators “Don’t Cut Our Lifeline!” Many wrote letters and emails, made phone calls, showed up at public hearings and in legislators’ offices and made it clear that these were critical services to the health and safety of individuals with developmental disabilities, their families and their providers. Your hard work paid off!

Services for people with developmental disabilities were well supported in the recent legislative budget proposals. The major reductions originally proposed by the Governor were not included in the legislative proposals. To see the final legislative budget side-by-side go to www.arcwa.org/takeaction then click on Budget Information. The chart currently shows the budget as it passed the legislature. The final step is for the Governor to sign it. She could choose to sign it as it is, veto the entire budget (though that is unlikely) or veto certain sections of it.

What can you do now?

If you have not already done so, be sure to thank your legislators for protecting programs and services that are critical to you and your family.

Stay connected during the interim. This is an election year and The Arc of Washington State sends an information email with a questionnaire to all candidates running for state office. The responses received are then posted on our web site so that advocates can get an idea of where each candidate stands on each issue of importance. Emails and phone contact for the candidates are listed as well, so that you can contact them with additional questions you may have. Our goal is to help you be an informed voter and to educate candidates about the community services you need.

 Read the Olympia Reporter for in-depth news happening in Olympia at http://arcwa.org/category/insider/C1
 Subscribe to the Olympia Insider YouTube channel for video updates at http://arcwa.org/category/insider/C2
 Sign up for Action Alerts at http://capwiz.com/arcwa/state/main/?state=WA This is The Arc of Washington’s Advocacy web page where you can view Action Alerts, learn the status of bills during session and much more.
 Be sure to follow TheArcofWA on Twitter for quick updates texted to your cell phone. http://twitter.com/arcofwa
 Become a fan of The Arc - Washington State on Facebook for interactive conversations and information.
 “Like” the Don’t Cut Our Lifeline! Facebook page with discussions about all of the cuts proposed to Medicaid, both at state and federal levels.
 Follow blog postings on Remarks from The Arc, read perspectives from various advocates on the issues of concern.
 Get the Advocacy Partnership Project “News to Know” email newsletter. Email a request to join to Diana@arcwa.org.
 Write Letters to the Editor of your local newspaper. The Arc makes this easy for you to do. Simply go to http://capwiz.com/arcwa/home and click on the “Media Guide” tab. Choose five newspapers to send to, then write your message and click send.

Questions? Need more information? Email me at Diana@arcwa.org.

Remember, change is being made by those who show up!