When the Washington State Legislature reconvened April 26 for its special extended session to resolve differences over state budget proposals, the Senate’s first item of business was to re-approve a contentious constitutional amendment to limit the state’s debt.
SJR 8215 would smooth out the state’s investment in construction projects by basing its capital budget on a 10-year rolling average of state revenue, rather than its current three-year rolling average. But it would also lower the state’s constitutional debt limit from 9% to 7% to free up some money for General Fund spending at a time when legislators are trying to address a $5 billion revenue shortfall.
It’s that latter provision that alarms labor leaders and other advocates for creating jobs by investing in the state’s infrastructure. Pointing to sustained high unemployment in Washington — particularly in the construction trades — they say now is the worst time to cut back on capital expenditures.
“Reducing the debt limit from 9% to 7% means cutting one-third of public infrastructure jobs in 2013-2015. Over the next 20 years, SJR 8215 will cut $10 billion in capital projects. That translates to the loss of at least 150,000 jobs,” wrote Jeff Johnson, President of the Washington State Labor Council, and David Johnson, Executive Secretary of the Washington State Building and Construction Trades Council, in a letter to all Washington state legislators on April 15 urging their opposition.
As AP reports, the Senate is refusing to advance the state’s $3 billion construction budget unless the House approves the amendment, but:
House leaders say the amendment could lead to the use of leases and revenue bonds, which are more expensive than general obligation bonds and are not addressed in the amendment’s proposed limit.
Should the constitutional amendment pass the Legislature, it would need a majority approval for voters to be implemented.
TAKE ACTION: Call the Legislative Hotline at 1-800-562-6000 and leave a message for your state legislators urging them to OPPOSE SSJR 8215.