Inside Opinion

What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers

NOTICE: Inside Opinion has moved.

With the launch of our new website, we've moved Inside Opinion.
Visit the new section.

Tag: budget


A surprisingly good budget from a divided Legislature

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

The 2013 Legislature can’t be judged a success because it failed to approve the major highway improvements needed to keep Washington’s economy growing.

That said, lawmakers deserve praise for pulling together a surprisingly good operating budget last week in the face of deadline pressure.

For months, the Legislature was locked in the kind of partisan gridlock that has all but paralyzed the budget-writing process in Congress.

The Democrats who run the state House of Representatives were pushing to preserve the social safety net by ending a collection of tax breaks and

Read more »


State lawmakers: Miles to go before they sleep

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

The Legislature’s inability to approve a budget is starting to look dangerous, not just loopy.

State lawmakers are now in their third session, the Senate and House of Representatives having failed to agree on a spending plan in the first two.

The paralysis is partisan: The Senate is controlled by Republicans, the House by Democrats. Without action, much of state government could be shut down as of midnight June 30. That’s when the existing budget expires, and the Washington Constitution requires legislative approval for further spending.

While a shutdown isn’t likely, it’s got better odds than the Mayan doomsday. In the meantime, the state is running up against deadlines for preliminary actions, such as warning school employees of potential layoffs.

The Senate and House absolutely must agree on three things: an operating budget, a construction budget and a transportation package that would pay for critical highway projects around the state – including the completion of state Route 167 between Puyallup and the Port of Tacoma.

Republicans and Democrats may be within striking distance on overall spending, but they’re far apart on some of the specifics.

A couple of measures being pressed by the Senate aren’t worth fighting over. One is a move to “fix” compensation for injured workers.

As the law stands, permanently disabled workers in their 50s have the option of taking lump sum payments in lieu of lifelong pensions. A Senate bill would extend that option to workers in their 40s. This can hold until next year.

So can a measure that would let the state’s payday lenders loan more money for longer terms. It’s dumbfounding that some lawmakers cherish this industry so much that they’d hold the entire state budget hostage for its sake.

But the Senate deserves credit for trying to force education reforms. Compared to the House, it would spend more money on the K-12 system and earmark more for efforts to lift the performance of disadvantaged students.
Read more »


Gregoire’s DOA budget plan offers roadmap of possible routes

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

Entering her last few weeks as governor, Chris Gregoire tied up one of her constitutionally mandated duties Tuesday. She presented a 2013-2015 budget that makes cuts, raises taxes and is, almost certainly, dead on arrival.

But there’s value in this $34 billion lame-duck proposal, if only to frame the huge challenge before incoming governor Jay Inslee, the Democratic House and the closely divided Senate as they try to reach consensus on a budget.

As in years past, they’ll face a deficit (just under $1 billion), a still-shaky economy and a voter-approved initiative that limits their ability to raise taxes. Add to that the directive in January from the Washington Supreme Court to make progress on addressing a serious shortfall in funding for K-12 education.

The urgency of doing that was reinforced Thursday when the court ruled that the Legislature is moving too slowly in finding more money for education. Although the state has until 2018 to solve its education shortfall problem under the McCleary lawsuit decision, the court wants to see more steady progress than it’s seen so far.
Read more »


Straight talk from T.C. Broadnax

Tacoma City Manager T.C. Broadnax doesn’t hang around much at our offices, but he came in today with a small retinue and the first installment of the take-no-prisoners budget he’s going to propose to the City Council.

He says he’s got to carve $63 million out of the $445 million it would take to keep the city on its present course of spending and services. That translates into a loss of 217 city positions, he said.

Our entire editorial board – all five of us – were in on the briefing. We all came away with pretty much the same

Read more »


Congressional hard-liners paving the road to Athens

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

It’s still only May, and the nation’s economic interests have already taken a back seat to the November elections.

House Speaker John Boehner is dropping dark hints about forcing another debt-limit showdown, the first of which – last summer – shook the financial markets and led to a downgrade of America’s credit rating.

After a testy exchange Wednesday with President Barack Obama, Boehner had an aide tell the public that the House wouldn’t approve any increase in the debt limit “without doing something about the debt.”

Obama’s press secretary countered with a presidential vow to reject “an approach that asks the middle class and senior citizens to make sacrifices without asking for anything more from millionaires and billionaires.”

That’s pretty much sums up the competing political pitches of Republicans and Democrats: For public consumption at least, Republicans insist America’s $15.7 trillion national debt can be handled with spending cuts alone.
Read more »


Forced bipartisanship paid dividends in state budget

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

It took four months of dithering and denial, but the 2012 Legislature actually produced a respectable spending plan on Wednesday. With a few bonuses thrown in.

Creative political tension gets much of the credit.

The Legislature – with Democratic majorities controlling both chambers – initially seemed headed for a budget that promised to perpetuate a habit of unsustainable spending.

The House’s original plan included a play to spend some of the next biennium’s revenues in this biennium. This would have added hundreds of millions of dollars to any shortfall the 2013 Legislature might face – the very pattern of deferred reckoning that has left Washington with a perennial fiscal crisis.

Spenders also dominated the Democratic caucus in the Senate. But three fiscally conservative Democratic senators – including Jim Kastama of Puyallup – bolted, throwing their votes to the GOP caucus. With the help of these Road Kill Democrats, the Senate wound up passing a much more disciplined – if harsher – spending plan.

Gov. Chris Gregoire proved to be the catalyst that made the chemistry work. She mediated between Republicans and Democrats and demanded results. Plus, her office floated an arcane scheme that will allow the state to briefly claim ownership of sales tax collections before the money is be disbursed to local governments.

That creates a $238 million credit for the general fund ­– yet cities and counties won’t notice the difference. It’s as close as you get to magic. As many times as the state budget has been turned upside down and shaken for a few million bucks, it’s a wonder no one thought of this one before.
Read more »


The choice in Olympia: Pretty budget or real budget

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

We’d love to see a happy compromise between the budget-writers of the state Senate and House, who’ve come up with starkly different spending plans to carry the state government through the end of the biennium.

But if forced to choose between the two supplemental budgets, we’ll take the Senate’s – specifically, the amended version announced Thursday.

There’s a lot to dislike in that plan, which cleared the Senate after Republicans and three maverick “Road Kill” Democrats pulled a surprise maneuver on the chamber’s Democratic leadership. Their budget pares back a slew of

Read more »


Kilmer’s plan: Ingenious job creation in hard times

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

A genuinely good idea tends to pop out from among the nondescript crowd of been-theres and done-thats. State Sen. Derek Kilmer’s proposal to create jobs without new taxes looks like that kind of idea.

The Gig Harbor Democrat – an economic development specialist who plays down his Oxford doctorate – knows that government best builds the economy by building infrastructure. Such things as sewers, water lines, highways, ports, schools – the necessary foundations of private businesses.

With tentative support from both Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature, Kilmer is proposing legislation that would – this gets complicated – finance major job-creating projects with bonds backed by tax revenues already flowing into two existing state funds.

The funds pay for major public works improvements and environmental protection projects. They are replenished with taxes collected from utilities, solid waste operations, and companies that market pesticides and other hazardous substances.

Kilmer would divert relatively small side streams from those incoming taxes to finance revenue bonds that would immediately raise hundreds of millions of dollars for projects already planned but not yet funded.

Port improvements and short-line railroads that could expand state exports, for example, or restoration of polluted Tideflats land that companies would love to move into.
The idea would simultaneously deal with multiple issues:

• Unemployment and recession. The construction work would create temporary jobs; more important, the completed infrastructure would help spawn private investment and permanent jobs.
Read more »