State budget ideas are just starting

February 4, 2011

By Contributor

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Gov. Chris Gregoire has presented a long list of possible cuts for Washington to balance a $37 billion, two-year budget. Legislators convened this week to begin sorting the ideas and adding their own.

All of the governor’s ideas have merit, some more than others:

  • Gregoire and the state employees’ unions have agreed to take a five-hour-per-month furlough, reducing pay by 3 percent. It’s not enough. The goal should be 5 percent.
  • The idea of creating a new ferry district may get the tax-supported transportation monkey off the state’s back, but it only creates another level of government and taxation. We can’t imagine the voters supporting this one.
  • Combining all of the many authorities that oversee education from early childhood through universities is an idea worth pursuing for the sake of a better education system, but it isn’t likely to be done this year. Can the idea receive further study without an added expense?
  • Other department combinations have been suggested for efficiency and reduced overhead. We like it, but we hope the Legislature will still budget by existing departments to give direction as to its preferences in spending.
  • We’ve come to expect the new state Route 520 bridge to be tolled. We’re glad the federal government has agreed for the state to toll the Interstate 90 bridge as well. The state should, in turn, create a lesser toll for both I-90 and state Route 520 — only until the new bridge is paid for. We fear the congestion on interstates 90 and 405 that will result from commuters seeking to avoid the toll on one.
  • Eliminating state support for programs for children, the disabled and mental-health patients is not acceptable. Those most vulnerable will only cause added costs in other areas if they are not cared for. Pay now or pay later? That is the question.
  • It may take a tax increase to make things better. The voters pulled back the tax on candy and bottled water, and the governor is committed to no new taxes. But let’s get real, people: We need to pay taxes if we want services. The biggest stumbling block will be whether the two parties are willing to combine forces for the two-thirds majority vote needed to approve any tax increase.
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