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: state government


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At the same time, the citizens repealed new taxes on soda, bottled water and candy that had barely – and only temporarily – balanced the budget.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


Recession’s lesson: Pay now, or pay much more later

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

Call them what you will – furloughs, temporary layoffs, reality catching up to state government, the Legislature balancing the budget on the backs of state workers.

By whatever name, the state’s plan to save $73 million by idling a third of its workforce on 10 separate days over the next year is better than the alternatives.

Union leaders may be fighting furloughs in court, but many of their members no doubt realize that staying home Tuesday is a small price to pay for having a job come Wednesday.

Furloughs preserve jobs, and the U.S. economy needs them. Signs that the nation’s economic rebound is stalling – among them a rise in jobless claims – underscore the importance of keeping people employed. Read more »


State workers not in the clear yet

Gov. Chris Gregoire told a gathering of reporters and editors in Olympia today that she hasn’t ruled out additional cuts for state workers. In response to a question from NPR’s Austin Jenkins – who has been one of the most dogged members of the press corps to question whether state employees are feeling their share of the budget pain – Gregoire said she’s exploring using “temporary layoffs” to trim salary expenses.

Temporary layoffs are essentially furloughs by another name. Workers would be required to take one day off a month – or some such amount of time – without pay. Gregoire has to call them layoffs to get around the state’s collective bargaining agreement. She said she’s also open to other ideas, but wants to protect low-wage workers as much as possible so they don’t end up exacerbating the problem by having to go on food stamps or other social services.

The governor’s comments were a departure from the stance she took at her budget unveiling last month, at which she seemed to essentially throw up her hands about seeking more sacrifices from state workers. She had sought concessions from union leaders, she said, and got nowhere. Now she seems to be looking for ways around the unions. Gregoire said Wednesday that the state workers she’s talked to are willing to do more, especially if it means saving their own or their co-worker’s job. Read more »


An alternative to axing boards, commissions

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

State government has a host of small appendages: commissions, boards and advisory committees with a dizzying variety of functions. Many may wind up casualties of the brutal cost-cutting the Legislature will soon begin as it deals with a $2.6 billion shortfall.

Some of these boards and commissions have already been killed. Early this month, Gov. Chris Gregoire eliminated 17 by executive order, including the Aviation Advisory Committee, the Religious Advisory Board and the State Genetics Advisory Board. Few state residents probably are aware these bodies even exist, so they’re unlikely to be missed by many.

The governor has also requested that state lawmakers finish off another 78 boards and commissions, including the Committee on Agency Officials’ Salaries, the Fairs Commission, the Midwifery Advisory Committee and the Livestock Identification Advisory Board. Read more »


Auditor has helpful suggestions for lawmakers

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

In slightly more than two weeks, state legislators will gather in Olympia for the 2010 session – and the unpleasant task of dealing with a $2.6 billion budget hole.

Lawmakers will likely consider a combination of yet more cuts to state government and services, and targeted tax and user fee increases. Two givens: Almost nothing they do will be popular with everybody, and everything they do will set off one interest group or another.

So they’d be smart to take advantage of at least a bit of cover offered by state Auditor Brian Sonntag. Last week, he released the “Opportunities for Washington” report, a performance review of state government that outlines several strategies for saving money, streamlining programs and providing better service.
Read more »