State lawmakers - whether Democrats or Republicans - are representatives of the people. No, that does not mean they should stick their finger in the air to see which way the political winds are blowing and then blindly go in that direction.
Lawmakers are supposed to use good judgment in conjunction with listening to their constituents and taking a pragmatic and analytical view of the election results.
In Washington state, the public opinion and election results make it clear the people don't want any new taxes or higher taxes despite a revenue shortfall now projected at $4.5 billion. Voters in nearly every county in the state said no to a proposed state income tax, no to taxes on candy, pop and bottled water (approved by the Legislature this spring as a way to avoid deeper budget cuts) and yes to an initiative that mandates - once again - a two-thirds majority of the Legislatuare to raise taxes.
"Voters are telling us they've had enough. People want the government to live within its means," said state Senate Republican Leader Mike Hewitt of Walla Walla. "It's not going to be easy ... . There's always pain involved when you start cutting budgets. We don't have a choice."
Given the overwhelming support for the anti-tax initatives listed above, it's difficult to dispute Hewitt's conclusion.
Hewitt and House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt delivered a letter to Gov. Chris Gregoire asking her to call a special session early next month to reduce the flow of cash ASAP so less will have to be trimmed later.
"Waiting until January or later to shore up the 2009-'11 budget will only make our fiscal situation worse and require more and deeper cuts," Hewitt and DeBolt wrote. A quick special session is a "responsible, proactive approach," they said.
Cuts are inevitable. Sen. Ed Murray, a liberal Democrat from Seattle and chairman of the Senate Democratic Caucus, concedes that. He told The Seattle Times this election shows voters don't want new taxes, but he believes they'll continue to want services the state provides. He, too, makes a valid point.
This is where it's going to get tricky for lawmakers who now understand they will have to cut, and cut deeply. They must trim spending but still keep intact the services most people - the majority of their constituents - want.
To make a significant dent in the spending so it will not exceed the diminishing revenue, salaries will have to be reduced. Paying workers is the largest part of the state budget.
Jobs are going to have to be eliminated. But lawmakers could mitigate job losses by continuing and expanding pay freezes. Mpre furloughs should be considered. The fewer jobs lost the better.
The reality is that when workers lose their jobs it's a blow to the economy. The unemployed are no longer buying goods and services at the same level and that ripples through the economy.
Lawmakers need to cut state spending but they must do so judiciously - and as quickly as possible.