As is so often the case, the questions in cases like this - a public online chat with a legislator - is at least as interesting as the answers.
The legislator is on a hot seat this week - Washington state Representative Ross Hunter, D-Medina, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, which with its Senate counterpart writes the state budget. Its proposal, just released, addresses the $5 billion gap between existing revenue sources and maintaining what the state now does. Doing that is the rub; it uses cuts in services, shifts of revenue use and other devices, including privatizing part of the state liquor system. It is leaving some unhappiness in its wake.
But also generating lots of fuzzy thinking.
One chatter complained, "every year we have run a deficit in this state." Hunter pointed out that the state (like most states) has to balance its budget every year.
Justin asked why the legislature continued taxes paying for various sports arenas, including the long-demolished Kingdome. Hunter replied that "we haven't decided to do that."
Another asked why tax breaks for banks and for cosmetic surgery are left alone while money for schools is being cut. Hunter said that increases in taxes requires a two-thirds vote, which can't be gotten.
Someone who voted against liquor privatization because of possible expansion of sales outlets last fall complained about the effort in the legislature now. Hunter said that (and this would be in contrast to the ballot measures) the new proposal would affect only warehousing, not the number of outlets.
And so on. An educational tour of the process and some of the substance. May it be done more often.
Politics as such barely entered in. The main exception was when a chatter asked what useful lessons Hunter would draw from the budgeting issues in Wisconsin. Hunter: "Extreme positions that create political theater might be fun to do, but don't advance the state. His economic proposals are dominated in public by his theater. Our cuts to employee benefits and compensation are deeper than the ones he proposed in Wisconsin, but we negotiated ours."