House Democrats were poised Friday to approve an efficiency bill that would move the Department of Printing under the umbrella of the Department of Information Services.
But the state Senate moved in a sharply different direction, aiming to instead kill off one of the state’s oldest agencies – founded in 1854 as the Public Printer.
Democratic Sen. Rodney Tom of Medina said he wants to abolish the 100-worker shop because agencies can use desktop printers for small materials and private companies if they need brochures or reports printed.
His Senate Bill 6867 is one piece of his goal of transforming state government over the next few years – including a push to put more, if not all, of the state’s liquor distribution and sales into private hands. Tom also is pursuing legislation to combine three natural-resource agencies – including Fish and Wildlife and state parks – by sharing some office space and functions.
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“We’re going to have to resize the footprint of government,” Tom said in an interview. “We’re looking at areas that are not critical core services. … Everybody does desktop printing these days. It’s not like 30 years ago when you had a steno pool and printers, but we’re still stuck in that age.”
Tom’s comments came as the House readied for a vote Monday on moving the print agency to DIS. Tom also plans a 3:30 p.m. hearing Monday about his harsher approach in the Senate Ways and Means Committee. He thinks his bill will emerge from the full Senate as lawmakers work toward adjournment March 11.
The debate about the printing agency comes as Democrats are about to reveal details of their budget and tax plans next week. The House is set to lay out its spending plan without a list of taxes Tuesday, and the Senate is set to release its plan with taxes Tuesday or Wednesday.
Tom said the public wants to see real changes in government, and that he thinks functions that can be done by private companies should be farmed out.
Rep. Zack Hudgins, a Tukwila Democrat who is no stranger to technology and innovation, thinks the agency can become more efficient. The former Amazon.com employee has a bill ready for a House vote that trims several costs in an agency that already shed 20 jobs this year.
Hudgins’ House Bill 2969 combines three bills. One piece answers Gov. Chris Gregoire’s request to move Printing to DIS. Hudgins said the idea is that they could “save some administrative costs. We would have one less director, for example.”
He also would find small efficiencies in the printer’s operations. Hudgins said the agency’s envelope arm, which uses recycled paper products from Grays Harbor County, makes about 27 sizes and colors of envelopes and could save money if it limited those to four or five sizes and colors.
Rep. Jim McCune of Graham and Rep. Mike Armstrong of Wenatchee have been working with Hudgins on language that could free agencies to go directly to private shops. McCune said current law requires agencies first to go through the printer, which charges a 5 percent fee to solicit bids for contracted-out jobs.
McCune said he agrees with the larger goal of shrinking government by handing work to the private sector, but he also thinks an in-house agency is needed to print documents not ready for public distribution. Hudgins also wants to spare the agency from extinction.
Jim King, a lobbyist with the Independent Business Association, said his group also sees the printing office as doomed.
“The changes are catching up to it. We were not going to advocate abolishing it, because time is going to do it,” he said.
Brad Shannon: 360-753-1688