NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, November 21st, 2019

Dori Monson’s “list of government budget cuts to cover any 976 transit deficit” is a joke

Appar­ent­ly con­cerned that his dis­hon­est, shame­less pro­mo­tion of Tim Eyman’s I‑976 might come across as heart­less and lack­ing in empa­thy, KIRO Radio’s Dori Mon­son yes­ter­day tried to argue that peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties need­n’t be affect­ed by the poten­tial imple­men­ta­tion of Tim Eyman’s Ini­tia­tive 976 because there is plen­ty of waste­ful spend­ing out there just beg­ging to be elim­i­nat­ed.

As exam­ples, Mon­son cit­ed the fol­low­ing:

  • Ever­green State Col­lege (the entire insti­tu­tion)
  • King Coun­ty Exec­u­tive Dow Con­stan­ti­ne’s pro­tec­tive detail
  • Salaries of some King Coun­ty gov­ern­ment employ­ees
  • Staff posi­tions with­in the City of Seat­tle

That was the extent of Mon­son’s list.

“Don’t get me wrong, we need gov­ern­ment,” Mon­son said, try­ing to sound less like the irre­spon­si­ble cheer­leader for Tim Eyman’s destruc­tive ini­tia­tives he has recent­ly func­tioned as on his radio pro­gram. “We need it to pro­vide the basics — schools, jails, pub­lic safe­ty, parks, tran­sit. If gov­ern­ment just pro­vid­ed those things, you could slash the bud­get and save bil­lions.”

Wrong. Right wing tropes are not a recipe for fund­ing the ser­vices we need.

Since you fan­cy your­self guber­na­to­r­i­al mate­r­i­al, Dori, per­haps you’d like to show us how you would rewrite our state’s bud­gets (and by the way, there’s three of them: oper­at­ing, cap­i­tal, and trans­porta­tion) to keep ser­vices intact while slash­ing tax­es.

You will not be able to off­set the cuts that imple­men­ta­tion of Tim Eyman’s Ini­tia­tive 976 would require with the exam­ples from your rant.

Of the four exam­ples you cit­ed, the Ever­green State Col­lege is the biggest because it’s an insti­tu­tion of high­er edu­ca­tion. Some of Ever­green’s fund­ing comes from tuition, some comes from grants, and some comes from state tax­es; were the insti­tu­tion to be cut off from pub­lic fund­ing and pri­va­tized, only a pal­try frac­tion of the state’s total oper­at­ing bud­get would be “saved”.

Here’s a few num­bers to illus­trate what I’m talk­ing about:

  • For Fis­cal Year 2019–2021, Wash­ing­ton State’s oper­at­ing bud­get is about $99.7 bil­lion, inclu­sive of all fund­ing sources.
  • In the omnibus oper­at­ing bud­get for the cur­rent bien­ni­um, the Ever­green State Col­lege is slat­ed to receive approx­i­mate­ly $163 mil­lion.
  • $163,011,000 of $99,266,320,000 is 0.16%.

State bud­get doc­u­ments are avail­able here from the Leg­is­la­ture’s LEAP por­tal.

If Tim Eyman’s I‑976 is imple­ment­ed, mean­ing that the rev­enue it would cut is not raised from anoth­er source, then the Leg­is­la­ture would have to cut the cur­rent trans­porta­tion bud­get by $478 mil­lion to make the bud­get bal­ance.

The frac­tion of the $163 mil­lion in Ever­green State Col­lege fund­ing that comes from state tax­es would not be suf­fi­cient to back­fill the loss from I‑976.

Just as pri­va­tiz­ing the Ever­green State Col­lege would not off­set the impacts of I‑976 at the state lev­el, elim­i­nat­ing Dow Con­stan­ti­ne’s pro­tec­tive detail, cut­ting salaries of King Coun­ty employ­ees, and get­ting rid of staff posi­tions at the City of Seat­tle won’t off­set the impacts of I‑976 at the local lev­el.

Cut­ting salaries and jobs would only com­pound the prob­lems we already have, because it would put peo­ple out of work and reduce house­hold spend­ing pow­er. Pub­lic sec­tor jobs sup­port our state econ­o­my just as pri­vate sec­tor jobs do.

The Office of Finan­cial Man­age­ment has esti­mat­ed that Ini­tia­tive 976 would elim­i­nate a total of $4.2 bil­lion in trans­porta­tion fund­ing over the next six years.

You can see from the fol­low­ing brief­ing pack­et put togeth­er by Sen­ate Trans­porta­tion Com­mit­tee staff how much each account stands to lose:

Impact of Ini­tia­tive 976 from Sen­ate Trans­porta­tion Com­mit­tee Staff

As I allud­ed to above, at the state lev­el, trans­porta­tion has its own bud­get, which is sep­a­rate from the oper­at­ing and cap­i­tal bud­gets.

The trans­porta­tion bud­get is prin­ci­pal­ly fund­ed by rev­enue sources that are trans­porta­tion-spe­cif­ic, like the fuel tax, vehi­cle fees, tolls, fer­ry fares, and so on. For FY 2019–2021, the trans­porta­tion oper­at­ing bud­get is $4.9 bil­lion and the trans­porta­tion cap­i­tal bud­get is $5.1 bil­lion. If you read the bud­get (it’s avail­able here), you can fol­low the mon­ey and see which projects and ser­vices it sup­ports.

What I’d like to know, Dori, is which of the projects and ser­vices in this trans­porta­tion bud­get would you sup­port get­ting rid of? Alter­na­tive­ly, what oth­er fund­ing source would you pro­pose levy­ing to enable these projects and ser­vices to con­tin­ue to receive fund­ing with­out rev­enue from vehi­cle fees?

You advo­cat­ed for a mas­sive cut to the rev­enue that sup­ports Wash­ing­ton’s trans­porta­tion bud­get. Now you are mak­ing the claim that if waste were elim­i­nat­ed, there would be plen­ty of mon­ey to fund tran­sit for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties. Prove it. Demon­strate how you’d keep fund­ing flow­ing to tran­sit for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties with­out the rev­enue that I‑976 is attempt­ing to repeal.

And when I say demon­strate, I mean demon­strate. As in, show us your work. Show us the math. Make the trans­porta­tion bud­get bal­ance. You think you can do Jay Inslee’s job bet­ter than he does? Let’s see what you’ve got.

What you offered yes­ter­day is a joke. How about a seri­ous pro­pos­al?

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