Are you as confused as me by discussions about the state budget? This year’s budget seems to be the lightning rod in the gubernatorial race. The Seattle Times checked in saying the budget was too fat, pointing to the legislature’s lunatic desire to bring teachers’ salaries closer to the national average. The Tacoma News Tribune called the house budget a “doozy” and portrayed state representatives as irresponsibly disregarding economic forecasts. Bill Hinkle, a Republican from Cle Ellum, encapsulated the views of these dailies when he found biblical precedent and foresaw seven years of fiscal pestulence.
I find it difficult to assess these dire warnings and calls of alarm. First how on earth can I evaluate economic forecasts? I know that the Seattle Times called Gregoire’s previous budgets crazy and irresponsible because of economic forecasts but these budgets worked out wonderfully by all accounts. The Times — obviously inspired by a sense of dignity and humility — called the success of Gregoire’s budgets blind luck, so the Times is right even when its wrong.
I’ve never been able to make heads or tails of of the state budget. It’s numbingly long, loaded with indecipherable jargon and altogether daunting. This has made me reticent about entering into discussions about the budget; I do not have any sort of picture of what it is.
Perhaps tiring of being pilloried by platitudes, the legislature is (I think) about to pass a bill which should make the budget more accessible to everyone. SB 6816 passed the senate without a dissenting vote and on Thursday was unanimously approved by the House Appropriations Committee. This bill would create an accessible, searchable website containing the budget. Eight states already have such a thing and several others are moving toward it. The Washington Policy Center has a great article about this.