Inside Opinion

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Tag: shortfall


Still waiting for a reality-based budget from Olympia

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Want a refresher on how the Legislature dug itself into such a deep, deep fiscal pit in recent years? Read the proposed budget the House of Representatives released Tuesday.

When the session began, the ostensible job of the Democratic majority’s budget-writers was to deal with a state revenue shortfall of roughly $1.5 billion through the end of the 2011-2013 biennium. Last fall, Gov. Chris Gregoire proposed doing it the hard way: by deeply cutting state services – eliminating whole programs in some cases – and asking voters to “buy back” the most

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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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A brutal winter ahead for Olympia’s Democrats

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Washington voters could hardly have been crueler to the Legislature’s Democrats.
On Tuesday, the electorate left the Democrats in charge of the House of Representatives and Senate – although with shrunken majorities.

At the same time, the citizens repealed new taxes on soda, bottled water and candy that had barely – and only temporarily – balanced the budget.

After those taxes were enacted, increasingly pessimistic economic forecasts had thrown the budget into a $500 million-plus shortfall through June. The shortfall for the 2011-2013 biennium had been estimated at $4.5 billion. The repeal of the new taxes added $272 million to what was already a dire fiscal crisis.

Deliverance might have come in the form of the new income tax proposed by Initiative 1098. But the voters drop-kicked that idea into British Columbia, rejecting the initiative by a massive, don’t-ask-me-again margin.

They also slammed shut the door on other new revenues sources by passing Initiative 1053, also by an overwhelming margin. I-1053 restored a suspended requirement that any tax increase must be approved by two-thirds of the Legislature or be put to the voters.
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To tax or not to tax is not the question

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

State lawmakers who thought they’d never live to see a session as ugly as this year’s may well be proved wrong.

Washingtonians aren’t in a spending mood, and that has led to what Arun Raha, the state’s chief economist, calls a “revenue-less recovery” from the recession. An additional $760 million has evaporated from projected revenue collections, and the state now expects to be $2.6 billion in the red.

That might seem like next to nothing compared to the $9 billion gap the Legislature stared down earlier this year, but this is one of those cases when appearances are deceiving.

Lawmakers have less time, fewer options and a much smaller shot at getting federal bailout dollars to plug this hole. The last infusion of federal aid is actually part of the current problem: It helped balance the budget, but it also prevents budget writers from cutting some key programs.

What to do, except buy Raha a new crystal ball and pray Washingtonians suddenly become shopaholics?

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