State budget commentary is near-sighted
January 21, 2010 · 11:03 AM
I found the commentary by Craig Groshart in the Renton Reporter of Jan. 8, to be near-sighted and out of touch with historical context. After setting out his proposal that the state budget be balanced by cutting pay and benefits of State workers, he then said the state budget woes should not be an excuse to punish state employees. You can’t have it both ways, Craig.
State workers have decent employment contracts because they have good unions. Private-sector employees lag because most of them are not unionized and are at the mercy of their employers. When unemployment increases, employers exploit the situation by attacking unions, as Boeing did in the process of deciding where to put its next assembly line. Craig’s pro-employer view is obvious when he claims the B&O tax is one of the most unpopular in the state. I seriously doubt many people are upset that a business pays a maximum tax of one and a half percent (some pay as little as one tenth of one percent) on gross receipts after credits are deducted, when we purchasers are paying almost a 10 percent tax on our purchases.
I am not a government employee, but I have friends who are involved in law enforcement. They tell me about hiring freezes and increased workload as vacant positions are not being filled. Prisons are being closed and prisoners released early without supervision. Public safety, health and public services we depend on are jeopardized longterm by foolish short term budget cuts. The voters deserve a lot of blame for approving demagogic initiative measures to cut and limit specific taxes without regard to the overall budgetary process. We should also consider removing the balanced budget requirement from the state Constitution. Particularly in hard times like these, the requirement is unrealistic.
Craig expresses confidence that voters will punish legislators who raise property taxes (probably true) or who cut programs for the poor (probably false). So Craig should agree that a Constitutional balanced budget requirement is not necessary, since legislators who support spendthrift budgets can be thrown out by voters.
Actually the most unpopular tax in the state is one we don’t have, which our esteemed former Republican Gov. and Sen. Dan Evans urged us to adopt as the fairest of all – a state income tax.