Inside Opinion

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Tag: state budget

March
20th

Lawmakers must ensure state pension sustainability

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

All over the country, pension systems for public workers are in trouble. Many are woefully underfunded. Nationally the deficit was $1 trillion at the end of 2008, and it’s been widening since as baby boom workers retired in growing numbers and the recession battered investment funds.

Washington is in better shape than most states. As of 2008, according to the Pew Center on the States, it was one of only four states whose pension systems were fully funded.

But, according to Pew, “Washington needs to improve how it manages its long-term liabilities for both pensions and retiree health care and other benefits. The state has failed to meet its actuarially required contributions since 2001.”
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Feb.
22nd

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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Dec.
18th

Voters should be willing to pay cost of initiatives they approve

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

The state’s current budget morass makes at least one point all too obvious: The pot of money available to fund services is a finite one. Add a new service to be performed, and something else has to be cut.

When state legislators enact a new program, they have to find the funding for it – either by cutting something else or paying for it with a new tax or user fee. That’s because the state constitution requires them to balance the budget.

Unfortunately, state voters are under no such obligation. When they approve an initiative, they essentially toss the ball to the Legislature to figure out a way to pay for it.
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Dec.
13th

Coal in the stocking for a do-nothing Legislature

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

It turns out this Washington has its own version of the other Washington’s spectacularly indecisive supercommittee. We call ours the Legislature.

The congressional supercommittee, you will recall, failed to make the hard decisions on tax increases and spending cuts the nation needs to escape the fate of Greece. Partisan gridlock was blamed.

In Olympia, though, there is no partisan gridlock. The governor is a Democrat. The state House of Representatives and the Senate are run by Democrats.

They’ve all known since September that the 2011-2013 budget had a $2 billion crater in it. Despite meeting in special session since Thanksgiving weekend, though, lawmakers haven’t come up with any real solutions and plan to leave town without one. Read more »

Nov.
24th

Expanding gambling is no way to address budget woes

Of the ideas for raising revenue being bandied about in the runup to the special session that begins Monday, one of worst is an expansion of casino gambling.

The House Republicans’ scheme would give nontribal casinos – which now are limited to table games – the ability to offer the same video slot machines now available only in the state’s 28 tribal casinos. They claim that will raise about $150 million for the state, create jobs and bring in tourists.

Perhaps, but it would do that on the backs of those who can least afford it – problem gamblers and low-income people. Call it gaming, but it’s really a predatory tax on vulnerable people and their families.
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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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Sep.
23rd

SCC’s time running out on McNeil Island?

State Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Bellevue, visited recently to talk about the most recent revenue forecast (a shortfall of $1.2 billion to $2 billion) and provide some background on what can and can’t be cut when the Legislature goes into special session in November.

As chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Hunter is one of the Legislature’s main budget writers. So it’s worth mentioning that he said one revenue saver would be to move the Special Commitment Center for violent sex offenders off McNeil Island.

That’s been discussed before, but now seems all but inevitable with the closure of

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April
14th

Senate budget delivers on promise of bipartisanship

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

In the state Senate, Washingtonians are getting a timely reminder of why bipartisanship matters.

Republican Sen. Joseph Zarelli – usually relegated to providing budget commentary from the sidelines – instead is front and center this year alongside the Senate’s chief budget writer, Democrat Ed Murray.

That the two men teamed up to write the Senate’s budget proposal this year was a bow to political and fiscal realities. The Senate Democrats don’t have enough votes to get their way, and state government doesn’t have the luxury of leaving moneysaving options on the table.

Whatever the practical considerations that brought them together, Murray and Zarelli have demonstrated the worth of lawmakers working across the aisle.

Their plan spends less than the House Democrats have proposed, doesn’t depend on accounting gimmicks or money not yet in hand, makes painful pay cuts more equitable and looks to head off future budget shortfalls.

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