State needs an axe, not a scalpel, to fix its budget mess

It didn’t take long for the sand on which Washington state’s budget was built to start washing away.

Rather than embracing substantive spending cuts and fostering a pro-business environment that history has shown would actually create jobs and increase revenue, state lawmakers during this spring’s legislative session fell back on the failed policies of tax increases and more regulations to close at least a portion of the huge deficit created by out-of-control spending.

Even worse, as it turns out, they counted too heavily on a fiscal gimmick in the form of a one-time infusion of $480 million in federal Medicaid funds.

But last week the U.S. Senate, in a test vote, signaled its intention to withhold the Medicaid money. The U.S. House had voted the same way for real a month earlier.

Meanwhile, the state’s own bean counters last week announced that revenue for the current biennium will fall at least $206 million short of projections.

To their credit, none of the members of the 26th District legislative delegation voted for the current budget.

Even so, the statement released by Rep. Larry Seaquist (D-Gig Harbor) in response to last week’s bad news was completely inadequate.

“Should the current revenue forecast cause across the board cuts,” he said, “we will have allowed an axe to be used when the public wants us to use a scalpel.”

Correction — the voters want lawmakers to use a scalpel when it comes to those programs that affect them personally but an axe on everything else. Unfortunately, you won’t make much of a dent on the forest of state spending with a scalpel, and it’s about time our representatives in Olympia stopped sugarcoating that fact and showed some real leadership.

The other option, of course, is for the voters in November to replace those who created the problem with someone whose ideas for fixing it don’t amount to more of the same.

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