Do or die time for legislators to balance the state budget | Editorial

The state budget issue gets serious - Frank Shires
The state budget issue gets serious
— image credit: Frank Shires

As the cartoon on this page shows, it’s do or die time for legislators of both political parties to come up with a budget.

Let’s hope they do.

We haven’t given up on the Dems and GOP finding a way to fill the hole in the budget. However, the special session ends next week and no one wants to see lawmakers called back into session for another 30 days. Remember, the Legislature unsuccessfully tried to balance the budget in another special session last December before the regular session even started.

House Democrats presented a new budget Wednesday, offering some compromise on some key points. It’s a welcome move.

They’ve wisely agreed to eliminate some early retirement benefits for state workers who will be hired after July 1. Union leaders hate this, but it’s not as if it’s a partisan plank. After all, not only Republicans, but also Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire are in favor of this.

We suspect Democrats have been antsy because this is an election year and they don’t want to irritate one of the key supporters – unions.

Democrats also have dropped a ploy to balance the budget by delaying a payment to public schools from this budget cycle to the next. That doesn’t solve the problem, but only pushes the issue to the next Legislature to fix. Who knows, maybe the economy will be humming by then. But we doubt it.

Democrats also would repeal voter-approved I-728, which reduces class size. Reducing class size may be good, but there’s no money to pay for it. Besides, the Legislature has put this off before due to the tanking economy.

Earlier this week, key legislators from both parties, Democrat Speaker of the House Frank Chopp and Republican Sen. Joe Zarelli, met with Gov. Gregoire and even were seen shaking hands after the meeting so maybe there is hope.

We know the budget problem is difficult. After all, the state has a $500 million hole in the budget cycle that ends in 2013. Democrats and Republicans, the House and Senate, will reach agreement on a budget – sooner or later.

Let’s hope for sooner.

– Craig Groshart, Bellevue Reporter

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