Friday, April 03, 2009

Washington Monument Syndrome

Why perform CPR when band-aids are at hand? You would think that this year's extreme circumstances would force our Washington Legislature to stop pushing problems toward our own goal and start playing defense. You would think, but you would be wrong. The proposed budgets continue to use gimmicks, but the gimmicks are much larger of course, since the situation is much worse. Let's move money around and find one-time sources of funding, so spending can continue to climb - out of control. Let's cut essential services that everyone depends on so they will accept tax increases. Cut our State Parks everyone uses while paying people to attend meetings of the dozens of state commissions. This is so common that there is a name for it: Washington Monument Syndrome. The proposed 2009-11 budget is a combination of all these bad ideas and more. It is littered with minus signs on large numbers. That's good, isn't it? No. It takes the money away this year, but leaves the program in place. Next year it will need to be funded plus all the lobbyists for that group will insist the Legislature go back and fund what was cut this year. They won't even wait for the next two-year budget; they will be there January 2, 2010. For example: We were told if we funded teacher pay COLA with Initiative 732 it would come out of the surplus; we would never have to cut anything else to pay for it. It loses its funding this year, but remains law. $358.5 million - page 172. By the way: losing this COLA doesn't mean teachers don't get pay raises; they are elsewhere also. Do you get one this year? Much of the funding for highway repairs we have reluctantly paid higher taxes for - gone. Gone to pay for the Arts Council and a dozen more. But the projects still have to be done. Taxpayer, how are you going to pay for your highway repairs? Finally, The "Fun Budget" is the capital budget where fun things get funded: I personally support the Washington State Museum aka Washington State Historical Society. But should it and its Eastern Washington counterpart get over $14 million in this crisis? And why provide the theater in the West Seattle neighborhood where I grew up with $140,000 = Admiral Theatre-No Theatre Left Behind. The list is long at Washington Policy Center.

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