Gregoire's call for deep cuts in state programs merely politics

The governor called for deep, painful cuts in the hope it would spur lawmakers to embrace higher taxes.

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The governor called for deep, painful cuts in the hope it would spur lawmakers to embrace higher taxes.

Gov. Chris Gregoire's proposed state budget released last week calls for gutting core services to the poor, including health care, and suspending programs such as all-day kindergarten as a way to close a projected $2.6 billion budget shortfall.

Major cuts in the governor's budget include slashing financial aid for college students and eliminating state-subsidized insurance for thousands of low-income workers.

Those cuts seem drastic given the circumstances and, frankly, odd since Gregoire, a Democrat, has to this point shunned making such draconian cuts to state government.

Well, that's because Gregoire's budget isn't really a budget, it's a political ploy.

The governor is required by law to draft a budget that is balanced using existing revenue. So, given that, Gregoire has decided to show just how horrible things could be if she used an ax to make cuts.

But Gregoire, in unveiling the budget, made it clear she has no intention of supporting the cuts she has proposed.

"This document is not true to the values I believe in and which have guided me through a 30-year career in public service," Gregoire said in a letter released by her office. "It is not a budget I can live with, nor is it one I believe Washingtonians can live with."

Gregoire said she plans to propose new taxes so these deep cuts don't have to be made.

These cuts -- at least to this degree -- don't have to be occur. The governor and the Democrat-controlled Legislature have other options other than raising taxes.

We agree it will be difficult to reduce funding for programs and some tough choices have to be made, but it can be done.

The projected drop in revenue compared to the previous two-year budget cycle translates to about 3.3 percent less to spend. But the governor and lawmakers have to make deeper cuts than that because the cost of government -- driven mostly by salaries and entitlements -- continues to rise.

Minority Republicans called for a freeze on wages and state contracts when the recession first hit. If that had been done the impact on the budget would have been minimal.

Union employees not at the top of the pay scale have received pay increases, an average of 5 percent annually. The value of those pay raises has been calculated at $83 million in the current two-year budget cycle.

Most of these employees are hard working and deserve a pay raise, just as those in the private sector have worked hard and have earned a raise. Unfortunately, those in most private businesses didn't see their salaries go up last year and they likely won't see more in the paycheck this year.

Private employers have asked employees to sacrifice so businesses can survive this deep recession.

Those in state government should do no less?

The governor's seemingly draconian budget shouldn't be taken seriously. It was slapped together for only one reason -- to build support for tax hikes.

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