By Sandra VanderVen
Another day, another blow to the Washington State budget. Arun Raha, director of the State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council, just released an updated forecast that sends us 1.4 billion dollars back into the hole. This is after already making enormous cuts to our state budget, cuts that will hurt most of us. We now have fewer dollars going toward education, health care, and other people-friendly programs.
Here’s how this happened. We fund most state operations—everything from public schools to hospitals to the state patrol—from a state sales tax on things you buy and a property tax on the place you own (which gets passed on to renters in higher rent). But in a recession, most of us are making do with less, which means we are buying fewer things, and so there are fewer purchases for the state to tax. So far, our state legislature has responded by cutting public services like education and health care to bring the budget into line with lower-than-expected tax revenue. The problem is that during a recession is when these public services—things like food stamps and basic health care—are needed most! On the other hand, if we had more access to good jobs, we wouldn’t need to rely so much on public services.
What the politicians should be doing is looking for ways to increase revenue, making it possible to continue funding the public services on which we all rely. The money is out there, but the politicians have so far refused to go out and get it, even when we point our fingers at it, even when we sleep in the Capitol Rotunda in Olympia to get their attention.
The truth is that we don’t tax people fairly in Washington. We need to close corporate tax breaks and loopholes. We need to look at a more sustainable tax structure that will fund public services even in tough times. And we need good jobs now so that we can all get back on our feet again.