Get some backbone about the state budget, progressives!

The state can't prosper by cutting the budget again and pretending that there is no need for more revenue. If progressives don't draw a line in the sand, Washington's economic future will be at real risk. Plus: a few suggestions for boosting revenue.

Washington state capitol: cutting season.

Washington state capitol: cutting season. Cacophony/Wikimedia Commons

Is a state budget that was hacked by billions now the high-water mark? On Aug. 8, a day the Dow Jones dropped 634 points, Gov. Chris Gregoire directed agencies to plan for more cuts of up to 10 percent. The governor has a fiduciary duty. Now politicians must fulfill their leadership duty. And it points in a different direction.

Absent structural tax reform, state revenue will not recover sustainability for years, if ever. Gone are the days of an overheated housing market and consumer overspending. Because that former economy was based upon irresponsibility, there are aspects of it we should not miss. But we certainly miss revenue derived from it.

We can no longer debate on the margins. Simply suing to overturn Initiative 1053 will not change public perceptions of what a healthy state government needs to operate. Only leadership that educates and, yes, challenges, will bring change. 

And where is that leadership when even a Democratic House speaker heralds as "spectacular" an all-cuts budget largely dictated by Republicans? If the public is spoon-fed a diet of pablum about how the safety net was “saved” (close your eyes to reality, folks), how are they to understand more is needed?

Whatever the outcome of the 2012 election, it’s now clear our Democratic state will go at least 20 years without a liberal governor. There’s no Mike Lowry on the scene. Both gubernatorial candidates have come out against tax increases generally, and an income tax in particular. Both opposed the high-earners' tax Initiative 1098.  Democrat Jay Inslee was even one of just half of House Democrats to vote with most Republicans in favor of the no-new-taxes, all-cuts federal "debt deal."

We risk the only real budget debate being over how to cut. Yet history gives no example of cutting the way into prosperity out of a downturn.

The only poster-child tax loopholes that Democrats, including Inslee, are willing to question is one for banks lending first mortgages. In mankind’s history it’s likely no relatively trifling amount of money has been “spent” more ways than the revenue represented by this loophole. It would be like spending a penny in a grocery store and expecting to fill a shopping cart. Closing the bank loophole would bring in $105.8 million a biennium. Context: More was cut from Washington State University alone. The sum is but a fraction of the likely next revenue shortfall.

By exalting an anecdote over the big picture, we are, in effect, conceding the current, decimated state budget — plus $105.8 million — is about as good as it gets.  

It’s time to really discuss, not run from, tax reform. And that discussion cannot wait until the next state revenue forecast on Sept. 15, which will bring news so bad it may force a second 2011 "special session" even before the traditional supplemental budget session begins in January. Failing to start this vital discussion will box our gubernatorial candidates into a self-defeating narrative and race-to-the-bottom.

“Happy to be here” political careerism needs to take a backseat to leadership. While it's worth arguing I-1053 violates constitutional majority rule, I can, as a plaintiff in the 1994 lawsuit against Initiative 601, which the Washington Supreme Court punted on, attest to the danger of wishing upon a star and hoping lawsuits vindicate democratic principles.

Whatever the I-1053 lawsuit’s outcome, vulnerable people will die in the interim and our economic future, through education, will be strangled. The only moral alternative is to give people revenue choices to avert disaster. For the Legislature to present such choices requires only a simple-majority vote.

To throw out a couple significant ideas: We could raise the business and occupation tax on services from 1.8 percent to 2 percent (it's been that high before), or implement a payroll tax to fund Medicaid long-term care in the same fashion Medicare is funded.

Unless rationality prevails, and progressives draw a line in the line in the sand now, our state’s economy may be largely unsalvageable. The governor’s race victor would be left without much of a state to govern. It may indeed be darkest just before the dawn, but it sure seems darker still if you keep turning the hour-hand back to midnight. 


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Comments:

Posted Fri, Aug 12, 7:51 a.m. Inappropriate

"Is a state budget that was hacked by billions now the high-water mark?"

Maybe. Was a state budget that was grown by billions the low-water mark?

From the Seattle Times (12/20/2006): "Saying we're in "exciting times," Gov. Christine Gregoire on Tuesday proposed dramatically increasing state spending by more than $4 billion over the next two years."

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2003486428_budget20m0.html

BlueLight

Posted Fri, Aug 12, 9:47 a.m. Inappropriate

"Bullies only flourish if everyone on the playground cowers. It’s better to die on your feet than live on your knees. Who will stand up?"

Funny, that's what I thought the Tea Party was all about.

dbreneman

Posted Fri, Aug 12, 9:58 a.m. Inappropriate

its sad really. the best and the brightest just cannot accept the fast that the 50 year experiment of government growth has finally hit the wall. that wall is supply of revenues vs demand but it also a wall of information brought about by technology that has pealed back the curtain and revealed the waste to everyone, left and right. the left accepts that mountains of money are being squandered but wants things to remain the same as long as somebody else pays for it. the right won't pay for it anymore, accepting that this in itself will force change. its ironic that the intelligentsia wants the status quo. petit bourgeois.

beaky

Posted Fri, Aug 12, 10:09 a.m. Inappropriate

"...the best and the brightest just cannot accept the fast that the 50 year experiment of government growth has finally hit the wall"

Maybe they weren't the "best", after all. Or the "brightest".

BlueLight

Posted Fri, Aug 12, 11 a.m. Inappropriate

The fact that liberals have long been hiding behind the label "progressive" suggests that the question of backbone is moot.

woofer

Posted Fri, Aug 12, 11:40 a.m. Inappropriate

The state's 'progressives' do not have any shame when it comes to demanding other's money for their wants and wishes. May cuts continue for years to come; may the state and local government workforce shrink similar to today's announcement of 120,000 fewer postal workers along with a new health insurance and retirement plan for the 1,000,000 workers and retirees. Cap and freeze spending and thank you Governor Eyman for slashing billions from the progressive's wish lists.

animalal

Posted Fri, Aug 12, 1:06 p.m. Inappropriate

Mr. Williams is surely correct when he declares "we can no longer debate on the margins" and poignantly adds "only leadership that educates and, yes, challenges, will bring change."

But his subsequent question – "where is that leadership when even a Democratic House speaker heralds as 'spectacular' an all-cuts budget largely dictated by Republicans?" – epitomizes the “progressives” ironic inability to grow beyond denial and delusion.

The tragic truth is that we all suffer from the intellectual paralysis inflicted on us by seven decades of anti-socialist witch-hunting. Even U.S. feminism – presumptively the most purge-resistant movement in the nation – has been compelled to banish Simone de Beauvoir and replace her with Ayn Rand – a transformation as obvious here in the Pacific Northwest as it is in the nation's larger cities.

But all the so-called “progressives” – male and female alike – are sorely afflicted. This is because the witch hunters long ago decreed every progressive utterance be prefaced by mandatory genuflection to capitalism, an abject gesture of submission that had become reflex even before the (pivotally reactionary) Carter presidency.

Pivotally reactionary indeed: the Carter Administration imposed the federal abortion ban and began the welfare cutbacks for which Reagan later became famous. Thirty-four years later it is obvious this was our first glimpse of what has since become the modus operandi of the Democrat Party: serving the capitalists by enabling the Republican agenda of social-Darwinist savagery,

So it has been ever since: single-party tyranny behind a charade of two-party democracy (for which see http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/blog/2009/07/bill_moyers_michael_winship_so.html )

Now, with the traditional paradigm of capitalist governance imposed on the United States – absolute power and unlimited profit for the Ruling Class, total subjugation and genocidal poverty for all the rest of us – there is no leadership that dares “bring change”: at least not the sort of change Mr. Williams envisions.

Nor will there ever be such leadership again. The capitalists – assured absolute control by the Citizens United decision – will never allow it.

As to Mr. Williams' “alternative way forward,” that too is utter nonsense. The evidence is overwhelming. And it's not just the 2008 presidential election, with its slogan “change we can believe in” as preface to the most dismally ruinous betrayals in U.S. political history. It's also what happened this week in Wisconsin: the greatest combined Democrat/labor political effort in a generation – maybe ever – shattered in four of six elections.

Wisconsin also treated us to the spectacle of a (presumably) Democrat president so slavishly intent on winning acceptance by our new anti-union, anti-Working Class masters, he turned his back on his own allies, refusing to campaign for any of the labor/Democrat candidates.

Once again, no leadership.

And no rational hope either – not until “progressives” admit to themselves just how powerless We the People have become.

Posted Fri, Aug 12, 2:02 p.m. Inappropriate

When Ron Sims ran for governor he proposed replacing the state portions of the sales and property taxes (and eliminating the B&O; tax) and replacing them with an personal & business income tax of no more than 4%. This would've cost everyone less, brought in more revenue and would've been a much more stable revenue source. He and the plan got shot down in flames.

We can talk all we want about how the state needs a rational solution to its revenue problem, but the people reject rationality out of hand. I tend to believe Baby Boomers, whose parents willingly made possible for them government largesse unprecedented in human history, have simply realized it's their turn to pay, and they don't wanna.

So Washington becomes Mississippi. Except Mississippi spends more per capita on schools and infrastructure...

orino

Posted Sat, Aug 13, 8:03 a.m. Inappropriate

This is funny.

"Olympia attorney Brendan Williams served in the Washington House of Representatives from 2005-11. In 2008 he announced he would not seek a fourth term due to the lack of progressive leadership."

So in response to the playground Bullies in his own party, Williams refused to stand-up and chose to quit.

Nice Message.

Cameron

Posted Sat, Aug 13, 11:29 a.m. Inappropriate

@orino: Actually, the baby boomers have been paying since the 1970s. We've paid for our parents' retirements and we've paid for our children's education. We've paid for four wars (and paid for the Vietnam war with our blood). We paid to put Hubble into space. We paid for HIV/AIDS research and fought our own government to get funding for it.

When we are gone, our considerable assets will go to genX and genY (who are the children we put through college and some of whose children we have also raised). So... don't put this mess on us. It's the generations after ours, who are now in their 30s and 40s; who seem to have no sense of obligation to anyone other than themselves; who seem to think the roads and schools and airports and telecommunication systems will just build and maintain themselves; who seem to have no sense of responsibility for the upkeep and maintenance of the community-at-large. If anything is our fault, it's that we overindulged them.

Posted Sat, Aug 13, 9:57 p.m. Inappropriate

Williams didn't refuse to stand up. He stood up alone almost alone, and got tired of it. I wish he'd stayed, but disgust is a strong emotion.

However, there are Dems still there and they'd better do a little standing up or we're losing it all. This isn't intellectual paralysis on the part of the Dems; instead, they are collaborating with the Republicans, from Obama down to Olympia, and I mean collaborating in the sense of how the Vichy government behaved in WWII. If those younger than 40 don't know what that means, look it up. Wikipedia can probably tell you; that won't tax your brain.

sarah90

Posted Sat, Aug 13, 10:20 p.m. Inappropriate

The Governor needs review the numerous boards and commissions. Every one of them is a money sinking pit. State Human Rights commission, equal rights commission and various anti discrimination boards and commissions are ineffective and money sinking pits. Issues should be deferred to Fedral Rights Commission. Further more every State agency continues to be management heavy. Few years back Governor issued a memo to align front line employees 12 to one supervisor. There was no follow up with this through out the State and many supervisors are in charge of 8 or less employees. Governor also needs to review the Developmental Job Assignments throughout the State. When ever management had to reduce their own, the create a DJA opportunity and appoint their friends, relatives, family members to these positions. DJA positions are not funded beyond the normal postion pay but quietly end up becoming a permanent postion over time. DJA positions are not reported to the legislature as management positions because they are reported as the position holders previous position. Therefore a claim that management positions have been reduced throughtout the state is really a mirage. The unions, boards, commissions are too busy filling their own pockets. Tax Payers wake up and smell the rats, they are all around us.

Posted Sun, Aug 14, 6:45 a.m. Inappropriate

Wow Sarah90, no wonder State Democrats have a reason to worry, with "Friends" who make statements like this.

"This isn't intellectual paralysis on the part of the Dems; instead, they are collaborating with the Republicans, from Obama down to Olympia, and I mean collaborating in the sense of how the Vichy government behaved in WWII. If those younger than 40 don't know what that means, look it up. Wikipedia can probably tell you; that won't tax your brain."

Advocacy for single party dictatorship, an out of hand rejection of "collaboration" with any minority party or views and a condesention for those who disagree with you.

Will you ask for the same treatment if you ever find yourself in the political minority? How about if you lose your position as a Democrat District official? Is this how you treat your fellow party members who have positions different than yours>

Cameron

Posted Sun, Aug 14, 9:33 a.m. Inappropriate

I consider myself an independent voter and have voted for people I think will serve state/country best based on what I know about them. The truth of the matter is it appears Rebublican philosopies are best suited to turning the economic crisit in our State/Country around. Before this last election Governor reported our state was in great shape. Afterwards she has been tirelessly doing everthing that Dino Rossi said we needed to do to turn our State to economic prosperity. So it is clear whose philosophies are better at this time of need.

Posted Sun, Aug 14, 9:33 a.m. Inappropriate

I consider myself an independent voter and have voted for people I think will serve state/country best based on what I know about them. The truth of the matter is it appears Rebublican philosopies are best suited to turning the economic crisit in our State/Country around. Before this last election Governor reported our state was in great shape. Afterwards she has been tirelessly doing everthing that Dino Rossi said we needed to do to turn our State to economic prosperity. So it is clear whose philosophies are better at this time of need.

Posted Sun, Aug 14, 11:40 p.m. Inappropriate

I don't know what you're talking about Cameron (nor do you). I'm not a "Democrat District Official", whatever that is. I've been in a minority quite often in my life, and owe no loyalty to any particular party.

sarah90

Posted Mon, Aug 15, 7:18 a.m. Inappropriate

Perhaps you are a wing of the party unto yourself, well you and Mr. Williams. I have no doubt you are a minority given your "vision" for governing style.

You did write as if you are a part of the Democrat "team".
"However, there are Dems still there and they'd better do a little standing up or we're losing it all." Who is we?

Cameron

Posted Mon, Aug 15, 6:38 p.m. Inappropriate

"We" means everyone in the state, Cameron.

sarah90

Posted Mon, Aug 15, 7:29 p.m. Inappropriate

Speak for yourself Sarah. "We" would probably do far better if "We" had a transition in the Statehouse and the Governors Mansion.

Cameron

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