President George H. W. Bush asked voters to read his lips when he took a stand against taxes.
But no lip-reading will be required for the Washington state gubernatorial campaign between Republican Rob McKenna and Democrat Jay Inslee.
The two candidates were very clear — they forcefully said they would not propose new taxes if elected governor.
“I am not proposing and I will not propose tax-rate increases,” McKenna said last week in a debate with Inslee in Vancouver.
Inslee responded by saying, “No, I am not going to propose taxes. I do not believe they’re right for the state of Washington.”
While the governor offers the first budget proposal, ultimately, it is the Legislature that makes the final decision.
Nevertheless, the final document does require the governor’s signature.
Spending cuts are coming.
It won’t be easy given the billions of dollars already trimmed from state programs as the lousy economy has caused tax collections to decline, leaving a gap between the projected expenses and real revenue.
Lawmakers, despite a lot of political posturing (and hand wringing), made the cuts necessary to balance the budget in a relatively bipartisan fashion considering the Democrats control the House and Senate.
At this point, it looks as if the same type of approach will have to be taken when lawmakers convene in January unless there is a dramatic increase in tax collections.
Knowing that, however, should help voters get a good feel for what a Gov. McKenna or Gov. Inslee will bring to Washington. It means the candidates will have to make the differences between themselves clear.
To this point, they have some similar views.
At the debate last week, the Tacoma News Tribune reported, both candidates called for spending more money on education in the wake of a state Supreme Court ruling that the Legislature has neglected public schools.
And both said they would pay for the increase with optimistic revenue projections. If those fall short (or maybe that’s a “when”), they will look to reduce health-care costs.
The state does have some wiggle room in the area of health care in the way it opts to implement federal health-care reform.
McKenna and Inslee are both extremely smart and aren’t likely to box themselves into a corner on the budget. They wisely will want to see all the options available when it comes time to make the tough decisions on what is and isn’t funded.
But over the next 60 days or so voters will get an opportunity to view the different styles McKenna and Inslee will bring to governing under a no-new-taxes mandate.