Lawmakers can't use gimmicks to balance budget

State Treasurer Jim McIntire has wisely made the point that tricks will only create future financial problems for the state.


State lawmakers must now face the stark, painful reality of Washington's budget mess. The projected revenue over the next two years - estimated to be about 14 percent higher than the past two years - is still not nearly enough to cover the anticipated (or requested) expenses.

The gap between revenue and spending requests is $5.3 billion, which means tough decisions will have to be made on what isn't funded.

Unfortunately, as has occurred (too often) in the past, lawmakers have used budget gimmicks as patches so they could put off making hard choices.

It's got to stop. It's time lawmakers make the cuts necessary to bridge the gap without smoke and mirrors.

But last week state Treasurer Jim McIntire, a Democrat, said he was concerned legislators would grab their bag of tricks from the past in piecing together a budget.

These include adding a 25th month of revenue to the 24-month budget period and borrowing against expected future revenues - a tactic know as securitization. This occurred a few years back when the state sold off future payments from its tobacco settlement for 45 cents on the dollar.

"The gimmicks we have to watch out for are the ones that create a long-term liability for the state," said McIntire, who added in an interview with The Associated Press that the 25-month plan took nearly 16 years to pay off.

It appears Democrats and Republicans in the Senate are united against using gimmicks to balance the budget.

Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, and Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, both praise each other for bipartisan cooperation. In addition, both have also accepted the reality that this mess can't be swept under the carpet for future lawmakers and governors to tackle.

The House is a different story. House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, called both gimmicks "very, very unlikely," but told the AP, at this stage, "everything is on the table, and it always has been."

Budget tricks need to come off the table. The Senate isn't likely to sign off on a plan that uses budgetary sleight-of-hand and neither is Gov. Chris Gregoire. Allowing tricks into the discussion is a waste of time.

McIntire - as well as Brown and Hewitt - need to keep pressure on the House leadership to make the tough decisions now so this huge budget problem will not continue to fester and grow.


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