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 7, 2010

Budget dust

Editor's Note: We are very pleased to welcome our newest staff member, Steve Breaux, to the Northwest Progressive Institute team. Steve has previously worked for the Senate Democratic Caucus as a communications specialist. He also worked on behalf of Derek Kilmer's successful Senate campaign in 2006, and has served as a volunteer international elections observer. This is his first post here on The Advocate, with many more to come.

During yesterday's Associated Press Legislative Forum in Olympia, Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown threw down a gauntlet, challenging anyone who thought the Legislature could balance an all-cuts budget to put specific items on the table for elimination.

It’s a good idea – especially given that the Republican minority consistently says our state doesn’t need any additional revenue and with equal consistency refuses to identify the specific cuts necessary to balance the budget without new revenue.

The minority does a great job of pointing out what Brown referred to yesterday as "budget dust" – numerous items that could be cut from the budget, but don’t add up to much in the grand scheme of things.

Yes, what looks like small change in a multibillion dollar budget is real money to most of us, and the Legislature should always be looking for efficiencies in government simply for the sake of making government more efficient and saving money.

But for the Republicans to say the Legislature can balance the budget by eliminating “budget dust” is farcical. There simply aren’t enough “little things” to account for the savings the Legislature needs to find if they want to avoid revenue increases. If the Republicans disagree, then they should take up Brown’s challenge: make a comprehensive list and put it on that table.

In an opinion piece in yesterday’s Seattle Times, the conservatives came up short. Minority leaders Mike Hewitt and Richard DeBolt, along with Rob McKenna and Sam Reed, presented “...a few more ideas that, if implemented, will help protect struggling Washingtonians from new taxes when they can least afford them.”

That’s nice – but they go on to concede that their handful of ideas "won't solve the entire budget challenge."

Looking backwards, complaining about being in the minority, and putting only token budget cuts on the table while refusing to even discuss revenue enhancements isn’t good-faith participation in the legislative process.

If they want to be taken seriously, the Republicans in the Legislature and elsewhere need to do more than complain.

They need to articulate a comprehensive plan that clearly demonstrates what they say can be done: balancing the budget without new revenue while still ensuring essential public services and protecting the most vulnerable in our society.


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