Oregon

Rainy Day? WA Voters Asked To Amend Constitution

KPLU | Oct. 16, 2007 3:30 a.m. | Updated: July 17, 2012 1:18 a.m. | Olympia, WA

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By Austin Jenkins

What can a state do to avoid a financial crisis? In Washington, lawmakers have approved a constitutionally-protected rainy day fund. But voters will get the final say.

Correspondent Austin Jenkins has this voters' guide to Joint Resolution 8206 on the November ballot.


The yes on 8206 argument is simple.

Families save for emergencies – so should state government. This amendment to the Washington Constitution would create a so-called Budget Stabilization Account – that’s a fancy term for rainy day fund.

It would work like this: each year one-percent of state revenue would be placed in a protected account. It would take either a Governor-declared emergency or a three-fifths vote of the legislature to get the money out.

Representative Ross Hunter, a Democrat from suburban Seattle, says it’s a good antidote to Washington’s roller-coaster budget cycles.

Ross Hunter: “We wind up with feast or we wind up with famine and my goal in the rainy day fund and the reason I sponsored it in the House was to smooth that out, was to take a little bit off the top in the peak years of our income and make sure that we had it available in those years when we had a disaster.”

Ross says when he came into office Washington had a better than $2 billion budget deficit and programs had to be cut. He doesn’t want that to happen again. But not everyone thinks it’s a good idea to sock money away in a hard-to-get-at account.

Helen Sommers: “You know it sounds good. Rainy Day Fund, save money for a rainy day.”

That’s Representative Helen Sommers, a Seattle Democrat, and long-time chair of the House Budget Committee. She knows the concept will appeal to voters. But says even the average family doesn’t put its emergency fund in a place they can’t access quickly.

Helen Sommers: “I don’t think that the individual ties up the money under a constitutional restriction and that’s what this proposal would do. We can and we should and we do have rainy days funds that are not so-called rainy day funds. They’re our reserve funds and they’re available if need-be.”

In the legislature, the concept had broad bi-partisan support. Now voters get to decide if the budget stabilization account is a political ploy or good fiscal housekeeping.


On the web: Joint Resolution 8206

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