Writings and observations

A cut and tax mix in Washington

The core message of Washington Governor Chris Gregoire in her state of the state (today) is probably about that of most other governors: “For all these struggling families, we have a duty this session to rebuild the economic future of Washington.” (Just shift out the state.)

She did not have to deliver a full budget statement (as for example in Idaho) since she did that last month. But she did have some things to say about it, and she did offer up a revision which she said – in contrast to last month’s – she could support.

She spoke of a number of government streamlinings or eliminations, including that of 73 boards and commissions she ended by executive order last months. On a larger scale: “I propose to close, or partially close, five correctional facilities. By more efficiently using the beds we have, we can save $65 million over four years, and not release a single offender prior to his or her earned release date. Further, I am requesting that we close two of our residential centers and provide the residents better care in our communities. In the 1970s, we had six state institutions serving 4,000 people. Today, with only one fewer, we serve 900. And finally I’m asking us to reduce the size of three juvenile institutions. The last time the state closed an institution was in the 1970s. Now is the time — this session — for us to demonstrate, as difficult as it is, that Washington state government makes good business decisions, not political ones.”

Should make for some interesting stories.

But there was also this, bold-faced in the text: “We cannot just cut or just tax our way out of this immediate budget shortfall.” The new budget: “It counts on new revenue of about $750 million and cuts of almost $1 billion. The revenue will come from new federal dollars, new taxes or both.” Schools and critical social needs shouldn’t be cut, she said; that would simply drive up costs (of various sorts) later on.

More later about the revenue increases . . .

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