Inside Opinion

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Tag: Joe Zarelli

April
10th

What do Zarelli’s veteran’s benefits have to do with it?

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

State Sen. Joe Zarelli has been taking some cheap shots over the past few days over what should be a non-issue: the benefits he receives as a partially disabled Navy veteran.
Here’s the line of attack, broken down into its weird logic:

• Zarelli is the ranking Republican on the Senate’s budget committee. Because the Senate’s budget process has fallen under the control of its Republican minority and three fiscally conservative Democrats, Zarelli has become the chamber’s chief budget writer.

• Zarelli favors eliminating two programs for Washingtonians whose impairments – mental and physical, sometimes complicated by addiction – make it difficult or impossible for them to hold down jobs. This would save $100 million – part of his plan to balance the state budget and make it sustainable in years to come.

• Zarelli is on disability but wants to kick others off disability.

• Ergo, Zarelli is a hypocrite.

As an argument, this line of attack doesn’t make it very far.

The two kinds of disabilities involved aren’t merely apples and oranges; they’re apples and zebras.

By its nature, service in the military involves physical risks. Zarelli took those risks when he joined the Navy and came out with a back injury. His case was presumably reviewed closely; he was judged 40 percent disabled and is receiving the corresponding monthly disability payment.

This is an on-the-job injury; he earned his compensation through his military service. The programs he is targeting for the most part bestow unearned benefits; they are a form of public assistance. We say that despite supporting those programs ourselves; we think the $100 million is well spent keeping unemployable people out of the jails and emergency rooms.
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Jan.
7th

Supreme court opinions don’t fund public schools

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Washington’s schoolchildren won a moral victory and not much else Thursday when the state supreme court ruled that the Legislature has been stiffing public education.

The court was stating the obvious. The Washington Constitution declares that lawmakers’ “paramount duty” is to give “ample provision” to its public schools. If the Legislature were actually doing that, the state’s school boards wouldn’t be turning to local voters every few years, hat in hand, for money to buy textbooks and keep schools from rotting.

Voters will see yet another round of maintenance and operations levy requests on their ballots Feb. 14. Those levies don’t pay for frivolities – they pay for basics the state ought to be paying for instead.

But the high court didn’t solve the problem; it doesn’t have the power to. It cannot rewrite the state budget nor can it order lawmakers to raise taxes for public education. Nor can it order voters to approve those taxes.

Nevertheless, seven of the justices mandated that the Legislature deliver that “ample provision” by 2018. Writing for the majority, Justice Debra Stephens warned that “the court cannot stand idly by as the Legislature makes unfulfilled promises for reform” and that it “intends to remain diligent” and “retain jurisdiction over the case.”

What she didn’t say was how those words would translate into more money. They are more likely to demonstrate the court’s impotence. Chief Justice Barbara Madsen was far more realistic in arguing that the court had spelled out the law and must leave the rest to the lawmakers.
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