It's too soon to call for higher taxes

The governor and state lawmakers must make difficult choices to reduce spending to balance the budget.

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Gov. Chris Gregoire’s push to raise taxes is irresponsible.

We understand that the expected revenue from current taxes is predicted to be $2.6 billion less than was budgeted to run state government by state legislators and the governor. This occurred because the state’s economy, like the rest of the nation, has been in the tank. When folks aren’t spending money the state doesn’t collect as much in taxes.

The projected drop in revenue is not, however, as steep as some might think. Legislators will have about 3.3 percent less to spend than in the previous two-year budget cycle.

Yet, Gregoire and the Democratic leaders who control the House and Senate contend they’ve already made deep cuts to balance the budget earlier this year. To some extent that’s true. But much of what was cut was from a wish list — funding requests — not necessarily cuts to actual spending from previous budgets.

Lawmakers did have to make some tough choices and now they will have to make even tougher ones.

It’s time to make those difficult and painful choices without raising taxes. That, frankly, is what citizens have been forced to do during the current recession.

But Gregoire, in an interview broadcast on TVW last week, said she can’t accept an all-cuts budget.

"We’re at a point now where there’s no doubt in my mind I can’t live with that budget. I can’t cut hospice care. I can’t cut maternity care. I can’t cut all state need grants. I can’t do that. That’s not my values, and I don’t believe it’s the values of the people of the state of Washington," Gregoire said.

Those are not the only choices. The state’s operating budget is over $32 billion, which covers education, transportation, law enforcement, social services and more. It means going through everything the state funds and target for cuts things that are not essential. It’s about separating "wants" from "needs."

This means, of course, that a lot of people will be unhappy.

We might be unhappy with the choices lawmakers make. Even programs we believe are important, those that impact the Walla Walla Valley, might have to be reduced or even eliminated.

Well, the situation is grim. It is what has to be done.

While it appears the economy is recovering, there is no guarantee. The situation could grow even worse before it gets better.

Raising taxes could put a strain on the economy, hurt families struggling to make ends meet and stall the recovery. It’s simply too early to raise taxes to balance the budget.

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