Budget Debate: Will Legislature Read Seattle News Media Headlines?

Nov. 28, 2011

The headline on the Seattle PI Web site was startling. It read: “FACT CHECK: Has Wash. cut budget by $10.5B? Hardly.”

The headline and accompanying story questioned what appear to be misrepresentations by Gov. Chris Gregoire when she claimed Washington has slashed $10.8 billion from the state budget in the last three years. The cuts were her justification for proposing a sales tax increase to balance the budget.

My hope in the budget debate is that the Legislature will read such Seattle media headlines, as they meet in a special session this week to debate the budget deficit.

(Actually, the story appeared in the Seattle PI an hour after it first appeared in the Seattle Times. But, inexplicably, the Seattle Times deleted the story less than an hour after the PI story appeared.)

Reporter Mike Baker documented how the hundreds of so-called cuts are really spending increases that haven’t been implemented.

For example, the alleged cuts include:

  • $682 million in cost-of- living increases for education employees
  • $344 million in cost-of-living hikes for pensions
  • $1 billion in education cuts, but it hasn’t really been slashed because of student tuition increases
  • $128 million for an education apportionment payment, but the payment has actually been doled out
  • $69 million for state parks, but in reality the state took in that amount from user fees

Mr. Baker also reminded us that the state is ready to spend around $30 billion from the general fund budget. That’s more money than was spent in the more-recent budget cycle.

Because it was an Associate Press story, it soon appeared on 54 media sites.

The sales tax proposal is controversial for good reason, and why the sales tax debate erupted in Washington state.

Public officials have long violated good government standards on transparency and in spending. On multiple occasions, this column has called for reform and wondered why not transparency for good, open government in Washington state?

We need better public policy – here are a couple of examples:

  • Proposing to cut $160 million from state colleges and universities is unconscionable.
  • Special interests such as the Washington Federation of State Employees should be reasonable and agree to renegotiate labor contracts.

It’s easy to conclude from the Associated Press story that Washington state has a spending problem, not a revenue problem. For example, the State Auditor revealed state government spends $1.8 million for nearly 6,700 unused cell phones is only one example. We need more public officials to create a favorable economic environment.

Given the economy and continuous budget crises, Washington legislators should finally start compromising, stop the longtime practice of shell games and launch legitimate reform. Only then, will thoughtful businesspeople and voters trust Washington state government and consider a sales tax increase.

So, in the budget debate: Will the Legislature read the Seattle news media headlines? It’s time for good government.

From the Coach’s Corner, furthermore, the state can create more tax revenue if it encourages entrepreneurship to create jobs. Here’s What Small Business Owners Need from Washington State Policymakers.

Here’s another no-brainer: How Washington Fails in Filmmaking for Economic Development.

“Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.

-George Washington

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Columnist Terry Corbell is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services (many are available online). For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule Terry Corbell as a speaker, why don’t you contact him today?

Seattle business consultant Terry Corbell provides high-performance management services and strategies.