Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The surplus is off the table

Chris Gregoire did not say the V word, but the implication was clear in her message to the legislature Tuesday. She did not say, "I'm sure we all want to do the prudent thing, so let's make nice and be cautious." She did not say, "Let's all go along to get along." She said,
"As we look ahead to the next year, we will need every dime just to cover the increased cost of our existing services, particularly in education and health care.
"Saving the amount of new revenue I propose is something that has never been done before – but its time has come. [This is] a budget that is practical, prudent, and responsible. I accept the fact that we may have differences over how to spend this supplemental budget. But let me be clear, I cannot sign a budget that next year would require cuts harmful to the people of this state."

The people in the chamber understood her, even if the news reports the next day missed the point.

And they did.

Most reports I saw were along the lines of "a laundry list of spending proposals thrown out by the spendthrift Democrats." In other words, wrong.

Gregoire's budget has some mandated spending increases, for caseloads and teachers COLAs and the like. But there are very few new proposals -- biodiesel, cleaning up Puget Sound, low-income heating cost relief. And there was detail and organization, showing this may be visionary, but it is not pie in the sky.

The press is still preoccupied with looking for some kind of illegitimacy in Gregoire's election. Get over it. The judge threw every Republican argument on the legal garbage heap. Rossi couldn't salvage a scrap to cover an appeal. These guys in the press wouldn't know fraud if Kenneth Blackwell bit them on the leg.

(I notice nobody on the Republican side of the aisle has proposed a change to the process, in spite of their demands for a revote last time.)

Again, this budget and the address to the state legislature Tuesday demonstrate leadership. There were clear priorities, concentration on core missions, and little doubt about the direction. This is the kind of person who will get us where we want to go, whether or not you agree with her on every jot and tittle.

I think it has to do with her coming out as who she is. This is the lesson of Paul Hackett. Don't give them what the focus groups say they want, give them who you are and what you believe. Otherwise, as with a certain former governor, you end up looking superfluous, like someone hunting for a parade to jump in front of.

Another leader who has apparently been talking to Gregoire is John Kitzhaber, former governor of Oregon. The Guv's health care discussion has nuances that seem to be right out of Kitzhaber's excellent new proposal. Kitz is another real person. Check out his program at the Oregonian or the Onward Oregon blog, January 9.

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