This morning the House had floor debate on Senate Bill 2018, which is the appropriations bill for the Department of Commerce. It was actually an interesting debate that illustrates the various factions that exist on the House side of our legislature.
Perhaps the most encouraging aspect that came out of the floor debate was from the bill carrier, Rep. Roscoe Streyle (R – District 3). Rep. Streyle shared with his colleagues in the House that in the 2007-2009 biennium the General Fund was $28.5 million and with House amendments to SB 2018 it currently stands at $29.8 million. A fact that predictably left Democrats in a tizzy.
I’ve long said going into this session that the very least this legislative body could do is to go back to the pre-oil boom budget levels as a good start to ending a horrible spending problem. To see that become a potential reality for the Department of Commerce budget is good to see.
Yet, can they cut even more? Will the 2007-2009 level hold when the bill goes to conference committee with the Senate?
Rep. Rick C. Becker (R – District 7) recognized the work of Rep. Streyle and the House Appropriations Committee on the bill as a "fantastic job", but questioned whether some of the numbers in the budget should be set to zero as they head to conference committee with the Senate, where the numbers are likely to be driven higher.
Rep. Becker went further and questioned the effectiveness of the programs within the bill and called for proof of outcomes from spending taxpayer money on them:
"These programs don’t actually work. They’re in existence perpetually, because politicians continue to think that they can do better. Until there comes a time that the Department of Commerce can actually show that there’s an outcome that’s reliably based on the dollars that we’re putting in, I think that we have to start looking at actually defunding these things."
Unfortunately, Rep. Becker’s call to defeat the bill and look for deeper cuts fell on deaf ears. The bill passed 66 – 25.
As the bill now goes to conference committee with the Senate, we’ll have to hope that the House side does what Majority Leader Al Carlson (R – District 41) encouraged during the floor debate and hold their position. Otherwise, the only way the bottom line on this bill will go is up. And that’s just not acceptable given the already existing waste within the bill and the need to cut out of control spending.
2. House Floor Debate: