Editorial: Legislators need input on your budget priorities

March 6, 2009

By Staff

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The Legislature is about two-thirds of the way through its 105-day session with lawmakers grappling with a projected $8 billion budget shortfall, one of the most challenging state budgets ever.

Essentially, every revenue stream available to the state is drying up. At the same time, the more vulnerable members of society need added assistance from a host of state-funded programs.

This one is a head-scratcher. It reminds us of the old political adage — budgets aren’t about money, they’re about priorities. What are yours, fewer services or higher taxes?

Gov. Chris Gregoire proposed a budget with no tax hikes, but for it to work, she must ignore voter-approved initiatives mandating pay raises for teachers and smaller class sizes.

Voters in Washington have already declared that they consider these to be priorities. If they must be preserved, then what should be cut? Or should taxes be raised to preserve ongoing programs? Or is there a common ground, raising taxes a bit and cutting programs, but not so deep?

Speak up now or forever hold your peace. Do not just throw spitballs from the sidelines, and then complain for the next two years about how everything is screwed up. Your legislators can’t represent you if you don’t tell them what’s on your mind. 

The governor’s budget is available at www.ofm.wa.gov/budget09. Read it over and see what’s extra, where the fat is that we all assume exists in every budget, but can never identify. 

Find where you think we’re spending too much, and then call or write your legislator. Be specific. Name the program and how deep you think the cut should go. Keep in mind that on the other end of your cut may be a living, breathing human who will lose some necessary service or his or her job as the dollars go away.

If you can’t come up with anything, suggest where we should raise taxes. Which one and how high? Keep in mind that on the other end of the tax increase there is a living, breathing human being who will have to shoulder the burden.

Contact your 41st District state representatives with your priorities:

  • Sen. Fred Jarrett — 360-786-7641 or jarrett.fred@leg.wa.gov 
  •  Rep. Judy Clibborn — 360-786-7926 or clibborn.judy@leg.wa.gov 
  •  Rep. Marcie Maxwell — 360-786-7894 or maxwell.marcie@leg.wa.gov
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