Friday, September 23, 2011
Legislators, apparently, are going back to Olympia in November for a special session called by the governor. The catalyst is a recent economic report showing the state's revenue over the next two years is expected to increase $2 billion...a billion or so less than anticipated.
I've been mulling that over the past few days, still trying to wrap my mind around the idea that state officials are concerned revenues are ONLY going up $2 billion.
Revenue is going up to the tune of $2 billion in an era when most would be happy just to retain the income they already have. The problem isn't lack of revenue, it's overspending by government.
The governor is already talking about imposing across the board cuts, which sound good as a start.
But the state needs to research deeper, and lawmakers need to prioritize spending instead of an approach that tries to appease everyone while not really addressing the issue.
And what happened to that appease approach they took last time?
It's not working.
Teachers, for example, were asked to take a 1.9 percent pay cut and from Tacoma to Grandview they are revolting. In the case of Tacoma, they are defying a court order and canceling school over their 1.9 whine.
In Grandview the 1.9 whine is slapping stickers on kids, enlisting them in the effort to have the school board approve dipping into the reserve account to make up for the state mandated 1.9 percent pay cut.
It's time for state lawmakers to prioritize and then cut accordingly, not slap a 1.9 percent band aid over the gaping budget wound.
I'm not talking about throwing those in need out on the street, or hurtful cuts to those with genuine needs.
Instead I'm talking about savings, like maybe the state not funding new school construction in Sunnyside every other year - that's three projects in the last six years if you're doing the math.
The state also needs to look at its overall workforce, which according to the Washington Policy Center has increased 6 percent in the last decade. "If full-time state employees were a city, they'd be the sixth largest city in the state," the policy center asserts.
That means there surely are some cuts that can take place there.
Speaking of state employees, whose compensation accounts for about a quarter of state spending, there is a great website showing the earnings of every state employee last year. Go to fiscal.wa.gov and click on the "state employee salaries" button.
Sadly, but not surprisingly given our sports culture, the top four most highly paid employees are coaches.
What did surprise me is that 43 of the top 50 wage earners among state employees work for the University of Washington.
Might there not be some potential wage cuts or freezes, there? Especially when you consider three UW professors without tenure earn more than $500,000 each.
Make this special session indeed special, lawmakers. Toss out the band aid and apply the tourniquet, as the cuts this time need to go deeper still.