Inside Opinion

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

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Tag: Gov. Chris Gregoire

Nov.
26th

New tax – or wrecking ball for schools and colleges?

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

One question for the people accusing Gov. Chris Gregoire of grabbing for new taxes instead of downsizing state government:

Where on Earth have you been for the last three years?

Faced with the worst fiscal crisis in a lifetime, she and the Legislature have been paring state services relentlessly.

The K-12 system has been squeezed. Washington’s public colleges have lost a third to a half of their state funding, depending on the school. Health insurance for the poor has been nearly strangled. Many state employees have had wages cut or been laid off. State agencies – large and small – have been turned upside down and had the change shaken out of their pockets.

Even assuming Gregoire got her half-percent sales tax increase, her plan would still inflict brutal new cuts on state social services. Tax increase or no tax increase, her budget kisses off health coverage for 55,000 poor people, for example. Much of the state safety net would be gone one way or another.

She’s proposing the half-cent sales tax – and several smaller increases – to prevent the additional loss of funding for property-poor school districts, another devastating hit to public colleges and the early release of felons, among other things.

Neither the governor nor the Legislature can raise taxes unilaterally; they must get approval from the electorate. If the ultimate choice is between new revenues and further damage to public education, the public ought to be given the chance to make that decision.
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Oct.
29th

The real costs of a no-new-revenue state budget

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Enter a magical world where big problems simply disappear because there’s no money to fix them.

A glimpse of that make-believe world can be found in the state budget released Thursday by Gov. Chris Gregoire. Gregoire doesn’t believe in magic herself, but enough Washingtonians do that her budget had to play along.

Falling revenue forecasts have blown a $2 billion crater into the skeletal, hard times budget the Legislature approved in May. On Thursday, Gregoire announced a special late-November legislative session to fill the crater and offered her scenario – as legally required – for doing it without any additional tax money.

Even anti-tax absolutists might cringe a little at the human implications of a no-new-revenue budget.

In the real world, kids get beaten up, thrown out, sexually violated and otherwise brutalized by the adults who ought to be caring for them. When their grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc., are also incompetent or irresponsible, they need homes and help.

Gregoire’s plan offloads a lot of their anguish – where? to whom? – by spending less money on it. Funding for child welfare workers would drop by $8.2 million, support for affected children by $7.3 million, and payments to group homes and placement agencies by $13 million.

Good for budget. Bad for hurting, scared children, whose plight seems invisible to some Washingtonians.
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April
16th

A rude federal awakening for medical pot dreams

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

The feds have come down – hard – on the Legislature’s plans to expand medical marijuana far beyond the voters’ original mandate. Marijuana enthusiasts have only themselves to blame.

Gov. Chris Gregoire did the state a favor Wednesday by trying to clarify how the U.S. Department of Justice might react to the free-wheeling dope industry many lawmakers having been pushing to legalize with a new bill.

The two U.S. attorneys who cover Washington quickly spelled out their likely response: fines, property forfeitures, lawsuits and possible criminal prosecutions. Individual state officials might be targeted if they licensed grow operations and dispensaries, as the measure proposes.

Later Thursday, Gregoire said she would veto the legislation as written.

Read the U.S. attorneys’ letter and you’ll see where they’re coming from. The Justice Department, they said, isn’t interested in pursuing “seriously ill individuals who use marijuana as part of a medically recommended treatment regimen in compliance with state law.”
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March
13th

Time to move state workers comp toward sanity

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Year after year, Washington’s workers compensation system has lurched closer to financial collapse – even as the payroll taxes that fund it have escalated relentlessly. Year after year, the Legislature has done nothing about it.

This year, though, the state Senate has taken an important step toward controlling those taxes and preserving the system’s solvency. It has passed a bill – supported by Democrats and Republicans alike – that would let injured workers take lump sum settlements and also subsidize businesses willing to return them to work with lighter duties.

What happens to this bill in the state House is a test of whether its Democratic leaders are willing to step up to a crisis in the face of baffling union opposition. So far, they haven’t even given it a hearing.

There’s not much controversy over the subsidy part of the bill. But the lump sum provision, which should not be controversial, appears to be getting turned into a litmus test of loyalty to organized labor.

The fact is, the Senate – which is run by Democrats – went out of its way to make the lump sum option fair to workers.
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Jan.
8th

History museum would be an inconceivable loss

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Advocates of the Washington State History Museum are making a compelling case against Gov. Chris Gregoire’s new proposal to mothball the building.

The Legislature has preserved the museum, as an institution, through worse times than these. Lawmakers have kept it open through two world wars and the Great Depression. The reason: History is important.

It’s important to tell the state’s story to adults and critical to pass it on to the young.

The economics of shutting it down make no sense, even in a year when lawmakers must severely pare back many state programs.

Neither Gregoire nor anyone else is suggesting that the graceful, arched building on Pacific Avenue in Tacoma be left derelict. Even her budget would provide enough money – $1 million a year – to protect it from damage, decay and vandalism.
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Jan.
4th

Lawmakers: Get radical about funding higher ed

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

There’s so much talk in Olympia right now about de-funding public colleges, it’s good to see some serious people figuring out how to fund them.

The governor’s higher education funding task force – a group of business and higher ed leaders that’s been wrestling with the issue since July – came out with some weighty recommendations Wednesday. State lawmakers ought to study them closely and act on them by the time they go home in a few months.

Yes, the budget distress will necessarily dominate the session; that’s exactly why Washington’s college system needs urgent attention, too.

The state’s traditional approach to subsidizing college opportunity is broken and getting more broken. Neither taxpayers nor lawmakers have been willing to finance college for today’s students the way the World War II generation financed college for the Baby Boomers.
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Nov.
22nd

The state budget crisis has become a budget emergency

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Lawmakers have often promised to bring a hard-nosed, results-oriented, “everything on the table” approach to writing the state budget.

Occasionally they’ve partially delivered. Mostly they’ve claimed they were delivering while leaving sacred cows untouched.

This time is different. As of last week’s revenue forecast, state government was short $900 million of what it needs to continue the state’s existing programs and services at existing levels. It is short a staggering $5.7 billion over the biennium that begins in July. And that’s after the 2010 Legislature made tough cuts in some programs.

The immediate challenge is to carve the $900 million out of the current biennial budget – close to a billion dollars worth of pain crammed into seven short months. Gov. Chris Gregoire has already covered $520 million of that, crudely, by imposing 6.3 percent across-the-board cuts.

That’s the worst possible way to cut a budget, but she was forced to do it because lawmakers refused to meet in special session to make adjustments last summer. Their foot-dragging made the problem considerably worse.
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