Opinion

Olympia covers itself in glory again

Now that the gushing has died down over the magnificent, wonderful, marvelous performance of the 2006 Legislature and the awe-inspiring leadership of Queen Christine, a question remains.

Whatever happened to the suggestion, poorly received though it was, that the huge surplus piled up and spent this year, on top of the huge surplus piled up and spent last year, proved that the tax increases generating those dollars ought to be cut back?

Oh, it sounds good to say this gang of lawmakers left $935 million or so in reserve, tucked away in various accounts, but some of the spending created bow waves.

That’s what happens when you hire more teachers or prison guards so the cost of their salaries, expenses and benefits must be covered in next year’s budget. The budget can never go down.

Even the ever-generous-with-our-money Seattle Times noticed. “During the past two years, for instance, Democrats have increased state spending by some $3 billion, and last year added nearly $500 million in taxes and fees.”

And speaking of teachers, you know who ought to be paying the $28 million for remedial help for students being sent into the arena against the dreaded WASL? The Washington Education Association. Teaching is the only job I know where the worse they do, the more they demand in payment.

But lawmakers have come up with a passel of ways around the WASL. It’s like when I was made an honorary Bremerton fireman and had to pass a test first. “Can you carry a 50-pound load of gear up 20 flights of stairs?”

No.

“Can you fasten a hose onto a fireplug”

Yes.

“You’re in.”

Kids will still graduate on time because that’s how the system works. Holding them back creates space problems, relieved the way they handle prison overloads. Prisoners are let out the back door (graduation) to make room for the ones coming in the front.

Anyway, Kitsap didn’t exactly make out like a bandit at the session. I don’t think anybody expected us to get state funding for the NASCAR track, so that wasn’t a downer. We did get foot-ferries, but apparently the bill precludes contracting out to private companies on the Vashon or Southworth runs and mandates union labor.

The union labor part should be no surprise. Gov. Gregoire, like Gov. Gary Locke before her, promised labor their way was her way.

Rep. Sherry Appleton, D-Poulsbo, came out of the session wounded. She tried to get $5.5 million for the Suquamish Indian tribe’s renovation project on the Port Madison Reservation and was blasted by angry letters to the editor.

The point made was that, since the tribe considers itself a sovereign nation and has a casino, it should pay for your own improvements itself, or ask the feds, but not state taxpayers.

The Legislature turned her down.

Sen. Bob Oke getting his long-sought ban on free tobacco samples to youth was a little thing to most but not to him, since this was his last session. It languished in the Rules Committee until newspapers, knowing Oke’s cancer had returned, put the arm on legislative leaders to bring it out and do this for him.

Republicans tightened up sex predator laws by mandating 25-year minimum terms for a second conviction on a first two strikes offense, but plea bargains can still be made with predators who are kin of victims.

Too many dirty old grandpas get off because Grandma or Mom tells the victim, “You don’t want to see Grandpa in jail, do you?”

Too bad, dirty old Grandpa belongs in jail.

Anyway, your life, liberty and property are safe until the next session. Well, fairly safe.

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

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