Ericksen calls Senate majority budget ‘disappointing’

Senator Doug EricksenSen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, said the “get by” budget offered today by the Senate Ways and Means Committee chairman and Senate majority leader falls short of expectations he had coming into the 2012 legislative session

“It’s disappointing in several ways,” Ericksen said. “The most disappointing part for me is that changes to the structure and culture of state government are missing. By the majority leader’s own admission, ‘the underlying structural issue is not addressed.’

“We cannot continue to ignore the most important pathway to sustainable budgets in the future. We have to change how the state does business. We need to be innovative and creative and look for ways to cut costs and improve efficiencies. We have to focus on priorities.”

Ericksen noted that the small amount of new revenue generated by economic activity since November, the December change in when the state sells unclaimed property, and the 2011 steps taken to prevent fraud and abuse in social services have unfortunately slowed change down once again.

“It is ironic that the $335 million saved from reforms enacted last year shored up the state’s fiscal situation just enough for majority budget-writers to kick the problem down the road – again.

“In 2009, it was the one-time federal stimulus money that filled the holes. In 2010 it was the new taxes, which ended up being repealed by voters. Last year we made a little progress, but people have been counting on the promise to enact significant reforms in 2012. These reforms are missing in the majority’s budget proposal.  Like I said, it is very disappointing.”

Ericksen said he will continue to work for structural changes until the final gavel falls on the 2012 session.
Another major sticking point in the budget for Ericksen is the $330 million K-12 apportionment payment that is pushed into the next biennium.

“This gimmick, very much like the infamous ‘25-month budget’ from 1971, is apparently going to become a permanent fixture under the majority’s plan,” Ericksen said. “This is just going to create bigger problems in the future as the ‘bow wave’ caused by new spending commitments grows.”

Other elements of the budget proposal that concern Ericksen are:

  • Bringing reserves down to a dangerously low level;
  • Anticipating $32 million in new revenue from increasing taxes; and
  • Transferring funds from dedicated accounts to the state general fund.

“Lack of structural reforms, gimmicks, fund transfers and depleting reserves just put us on course for another significant budget hole next biennium,” Ericksen said.