The Democrat-controlled Washington State legislature has once again decided that it’s better to manipulate the public with inflammatory rhetoric and a sham of a budget rather than set realistic priorities and engage the public in honest debate about the tough choices that need to be made to get Washington on the path to fiscal sustainability.
Although the House and Senate budgets differ, they share some common features. Notably, both make deep cuts in both K-12 and higher education, while funding other, lower priority programs.
- Asian affairs commission – $315k
- Spokane hosting USA figure skating championship – $200k
- Spanish TV – $40k
- Department of Personnel gets a 5% increase – $3 million increase
- Hispanic Affairs Commission – $371K
- African American Affairs Commission – $343K
- Municipal Research Council gets a 9.7% increase – $6.3 million spent
- Minority and Women Businesses – $3.7 million spent
- State Liquor Board – $245 million spent (all funds)
- Public Employment Relations Commission – $9.5 million spent (all funds)
- Archaeology and Historic Preservation – $4.7 million spent (all funds)
- Growth Management Hearing Boards – $2.8 million spent (all funds)
- State Convention and Trade Center – $117.1 million spent (all funds)
- Human Rights Commission – $7.7 million spent (all funds)
- Retro Plan Review for L&I – $788 thousand (all funds)
- Funding Greenhouse Gas Reporting for Ecology – $696 thousand (all funds)
- Climate Change Response for Ecology – $376 thousand
- Agency Climate Leadership – $42 thousand
- Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions for Ecology – $862 thousand (all funds)
- Recreation and Conservation Funding Board – $18.5 million spent (all funds)
- State Conservation Commission – $16.6 million spent (all funds)
- Transitional Bilingual Instruction $209.4 million spent (all funds)
- Higher Education Coordinating Board – $551.1 million spent (all funds)
- State Arts Commission – $6.7 million spent (all funds)
- Washington State Historical Society – $7.8 million spent (all funds)
- Eastern Washington State Historical Society – $6.4 million spent (all funds
I’m not saying that these aren’t worthy programs (nor am I implying that cutting these programs would even make a dent in the expected shortfall), but is funding them really more important than funding basic education?
Of course not and the Democrats know this. They also know that voters would be far less likely to vote for new taxes to fund, say, Archaeology and Historic Preservation or the Eastern Washington Historical Society than they would be to “save the teachers.”
Yes, that’s right. We’re being told that 4,000 to 6,000 teachers could lose their jobs because Olympia has refused to fund basic K-12 education. I certainly don’t mean to imply that teachers aren’t worth saving. I’m just saying that they’re being trotted out as engineered victims of the budget crisis in a calculated attempt to manipulate the Washington voters into pulling the lever for the new taxes that will inevitably be proposed. Because it’s “for the children” rather than that photo of Narcissa Whitman. And as if the only people employed in education are teachers. I guess it’s a lot harder to gin up some sympathy for faceless administrators than it is for Ms. Smith.
Another budget shenanigan? Using one-time funding sources to help cover the shortfall, including $3 billion in ARRA funds, $780 million from construction projects and $400 billion by raiding tweaking the State pension system. How does it help in the long run to use $3 billion in ARRA funds to cover operating expenses? Wouldn’t it be better to address the cause of the budget crisis, namely reckless spending by State government?
And there’s more. While Governor Gregoire pledged that she would refer any proposed new taxes to the voters, she’s singing a slightly different tune as some taxes are being renamed as surcharges and donations – yes! donations! – to avoid the 2/3 majority requirement in the legislature.
About those donations, it’s been proposed that rather than close any of our beautiful and heavily used State parks, vehicle owners be given the option to donate $5 per vehicle towards keeping them open. I think that’s a great idea, and personally I’d be happy to make that donation. The thing is, rather than proposing an opt-in system, where you need to take positive action to make the $5 donation, what’s been proposed is an opt-out system, where you need to take positive action if you don’t want to make the donation. Tax or donation?
And surcharges; we don’t want to leave those out. Both the Senate and the House proposals make deep cuts in higher education, which are expected to reduce the number of slots available for new students by up to 10,000. Larger than normal tuition increases are expected to offset part and Governor has proposed that students be assessed an additional surcharge. Tax or surcharge?
State lawmakers have really pulled out all the stops in their budgeting process this year. First, the House and Senate budgets were unveiled with barely a month left in the regular legislative session. I don’t know for a certainty that the motivation for this was to limit debate and hamper the effort to mount an effective opposition, but that’s certainly a possibility; they’ve funded lower priority items and left high priority items under-funded to improve the chance that new taxes will be approved by the voters; and they’re engaging in word games to disguise taxes as something other than taxes. This amounts to nothing less than a shameless and cynical attempt by Olympia Democrats to manipulate Washington citizens and avoid making necessary tough decisions to move the State towards fiscal responsibility or taking responsibility for the current budget crisis. I’m calling foul.
(My thanks to Mr. Paul Guppy of the Washington Policy Center for his assistance.)