Opinion

Governor Gregoires proposed 07-09 budget too high

Will wonders never cease? Can it possibly be true in this blue blue state out here on the Left Coast that most of the daily newspapers have forsaken their endorsement of all things Gregoire to proclaim that Queen Christines proposed budget for 2007-2009 is too high?
Thats what Jason Mercier of the Evergreen Freedom Foundation says anyway. Hes the budget analyst for the EFF which is run by my old friend Bob Williams. One-time finance wizard for the House Republicans when he was a state rep in the 1980s.
I called EFF after seeing in a Seattle Times editorial these startling words: The two-year state budget proposed by Gov. Christine Gregoire is too high. It would leave the state with deficits increasing each year into the future. The legislature needs to scale back her requests at least enough so that the deficits now projected by the Office of Financial Management go away.
The Times isnt the only paper saying so, Mercier said. Almost every paper has taken that editorial consideration. Even her own budget office has told her If you adopt this, we will have a deficit in the next biennium even if we spend all the savings.
How can that be if she is required to present the Legislature with a balanced budget? It depends on what you are considering as your sources of revenue, Mercier says.
Gov. Gregoire is matching her spending to what her financial advisers forecast for the future and including all the surpluses. The economy currently is hot, or has been, to the point we are being told to expect a $1.9 billion surplus. But this is one-time money, he said. She is spending money that isnt going to be available in the next biennium. If the economy doesnt stay hot, there will have to be huge cuts in the next budget or tax increases to pay the bills.
Gov. Gregoires budget is $29.9 billion. The revenue forecast was for $29.5 billion.
She has loaded money in there for education, from additional teachers to salary increases and full time kindergarten, all of which create bow waves, which means the cost is established in the next budget. Its a huge increase in money, Mercier said. We are spending billions for poor results.
The latest National Education Association figures for state spending on education are from 2003 and show Washington 42nd in state spending per pupil, $6,985, according to EFFS Steve Maggi. But that is only state funds. Add in what we get from the feds and it rises to more than $10,000 per pupil. Biggest spender by state of state funds only is Washington, D.C.,(yes, I know its not a state but it has to be ranked somewhere) at $11,031, and the bottom rung is occupied by Utah, $5,057.
The amount of money spent, however, does not correlate to the proficiency rating in math and reading, Maggi says. For example, Washingtons proficiency rating is higher than the national average of 35. D.C. is the lowest.
A threatened lawsuit by unions and school districts to send the Legislature back to the drawing board on defining basic education may have been filed by now. I remember the last lawsuit when, after months of arguing, the end result was that the definition of basic education was everything thats being taught now.
Anyway, all is not lost with Gregoires humongous budget, Mercier says, all the Legislature has to do is base the end budget on ongoing revenue forecasts.
Knock it back $400 million. Theyll be doing her a favor.

Adele Ferguson can be reached at P.O. Box 69, Hansville, WA, 98340.

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