As the new legislative session gets under way this week, Republican Sen. Jerome Delvin gave his forecast for the 2012 Washington legislative session -- prepare for a 90-day storm.
Legislators will have their hands full balancing the projected $1 billion gap between costs and revenue, said Delvin, whose 8th District includes Kennewick, Richland, West Richland, Prosser and Benton City. If no budget is passed within the 60 days, the session will extend another month.
Like many other Republicans, he wants to see programs reprioritized and reformed before considering revenue increases.
"We set ourselves up for disaster because of prior budgeting," Delvin said.
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He plans to focus on saving money on education, energy and health care, but not necessarily by cutting benefits to citizens.
Public schools focus too much on the rights and wages of faculty and staff, Delvin said, which pulls focus away from the students.
Once a student falls behind in Washington, he said, there are few programs to help that student catch up. And students who excel quickly run out of room to grow when their schools do not offer higher level options, he said.
Right now, public schools need innovation, he said. But that doesn't stop teachers from emailing him about their salaries, he said.
Delvin is also calling for innovation in energy, but only where it is cost effective. He said he wants to temporarily suspend the Energy Independence Act, Initiative-937, because it requires energy companies to buy a certain amount of renewable energy, which can cost more than nonrenewable. That additional cost, Delvin said, gets passed on to consumers.
Delvin said nuclear technology holds a lot of promise for cheap, efficient energy.
He said TerraPower has a cutting-edge, small-scale generator that is safe and cost effective. However, nuclear energy has lost public supporters since the Fukushima reactor crisis last year.
"Nuclear energy incentives are falling off the table because of Japan," Delvin said.
Health care programs also will be on the table this session, and Delvin said he will support some. Though he believes student education should be more important than teacher salaries, Delvin said he would support teacher access to government health care. Such a program could save teachers money, eliminating the need for increasing salaries.
But even after finding some savings in the budget, there likely will still be a gap that some legislators will want to fill by increasing revenues.
Delvin said he opposes the idea of taxes. Mostly.
"Even after significant revenue and budget cuts, I probably won't support taxes," Delvin said.
And what about Gov. Christine Gregoire's proposed half-cent sales tax? Forget about it, Delvin said.
"I'm not jumping on the bandwagon for the sales tax," he said.
-- Eric Francavilla, a Herald intern from Washington State University, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.