State lawmakers' disappointing budget effort 'better than nothing'
The Seattle Times editorial board gives a thumbs-down to the special session of the Legislature. Lawmakers solved only one-quarter of the budget problem. About half of it is one-time fixes, leaving the same mess or worse a year from now.
"WE'RE kind of disappointed," said Marty Brown, the governor's budget director, at the deficit-reduction package being chewed on this week in the Legislature. Brown's disappointment comes with good reason. Legislators have been in Olympia two and a half weeks, and have made only those decisions that came with no pain.
Their package is $480 million. On the surface, it solves one-quarter of the budget problem. But about half of it is one-time fixes, leaving the same mess or worse a year from now.
For example, $50 million in school-bus spending is delayed until 2013. That is happy for now, and unhappy for 2013. Another $50 million is raised by the early sale of unclaimed property, which can be done only once. Other "cuts" are made by draining special funds or by assuming receipt of federal money.
Still, it is better than nothing. Said Brown, "If they had done nothing, it would have been a disaster."
Disaster is avoided. Actual achievement is yet to happen.
What's coming? Check out Gov. Chris Gregoire's proposal, posted on the Office of Financial Management Web page. Take one agency, Commerce, and only those programs she would wipe out. They include:
• A program to help manufacturing companies of fewer than 100 employees to modernize;
• A program that helps 276,000 people with housing, food and job services;
• A program to teach poor people how to budget, save and manage their debt;
• A program that helps immigrants become citizens;
• A program to support police teams conducting drug raids.
These are the sorts of cuts the Legislature will have to make.
Leaders also hope to enact some reforms so that the cost of government is lowered in the long run. The more they can do the better, and the sooner the better — but still they will have to make many cuts.
The Times opposes any more cuts to state universities and community colleges because these represent the people's future. This means more cuts elsewhere, including social programs and state employee payroll.
You make your choice and drink your medicine.
After the Legislature approves an all-cuts budget it will put a tax package on the ballot to buy back some of the loss. Legislators will have to curb their appetites: The more revenue they want, the more likely the voters will say no.