Like most governors, ours has no concept of the word "budget." I'm beginning to wonder who ran her own family's budget. Reading Gov. Gregoire's speech gives no insight to the actual financial situation we're in, nor does she seem to have any interest in restoring economic security. She simply seems to want to spend and spend and spend. Don't tell me you don't wish Dino Rossi had been reelected...
Bob Williams, Founder and Senior Fellow (and budget genius) of Evergreen Freedom Foundation, has put together the real state-of-the-state and I recommend you read all of it. It's not too long, and it is very, very enlightening. We need to come together on this and demand that our governor and our legislature get a grip on reality or we will be in serious, serious trouble. Well, we already are in serious trouble, but it will get much worse if they continue hurtling down the path on which they are currently traveling.
On the gimmickry of the Governor's accounting:
This problem has been building for some time, but it exploded exponentially last year. Governor Gregoire and legislative leaders convinced the public that the state was facing a $9 billion shortfall out of a $30 billion two-year general fund budget. Talk of “budget cuts’ ran thick. But when they finished the 2009-11 budget, legislators had increased total state spending by $1.3 billion.So when Gov. Gregoire and the Democrats in charge in Olympia moan about painful budget cuts, let's remind them that they are actually increasing spending, and ask them to show us exactly how it is that they've cut the budget.
Most legislators, however, are still describing the $1 billion budget cut they made in one portion of the overall budget (near-general fund) as if that is the only account that matters.
This year the governor said our state had another $2.8 billion budget shortfall. Again the tough budget cut talk began. Tears were shed. Dramatic speeches were made. Yet the final proposals look like this: the Senate proposed budgets that would raise total spending by $2.95 billion and the House proposed budgets would raise spending by $2.7 billion!
Put this increased spending in context: 1) an $11.8 billion budget shortfall over three fiscal years, 2) budgets that legislative leaders and our governor say have been cut to the bone, and 3) reductions in proposed spending that were counted as a “cut.” In reality, based on the proposed House and Senate budgets, total state spending will be increased by billions!
On state employee salary benefits:
State employees earn an average of $5,302 more than private sector employees. In addition, state employee benefit packages are worth 30 percent of their salaries on average. From 2005-09 state employees received a 25.4% increase in salaries.I think it's time to open the state employee contracts and begin renegotiations. Washington's private sector simply cannot afford to pay higher and higher taxes so that state employees can enjoy higher and higher salaries, and better and better benefits. Additionally, for each state employee laid off due to the economy, 240 private sector employees have been laid off.
Rather than requiring state employees to pay more than 12 percent of their healthcare premiums, the governor and legislature are considering providing more taxpayer dollars to continue these generous medical, dental, and vision benefits. The House is proposing to raise the state’s contribution of $768 per employee per month by $95 per employee per month. The governor proposes an increase of $62 per employee per month and the Senate an increase of $27 per employee per month.
A 2008 study by the Washington Roundtable determined that state employee health care costs were 5.8 percent higher than private sector employee costs of large employers and that the average monthly contribution of state employees nationwide for family health care coverage was nearly four times that of Washington state employees.
Read the whole thing. It is well worth your time.
On a related note: EFF's top ten ways to cut waste, balance the budget, and stimulate the economy without raising taxes! Also, EFF's 105 Days, 105 ways to do the same... Psst, Gov. Gregoire, you don't even have to do any of the work to research these ideas! Just put them into practice now!
Update: It turns out that the private sector job loss vs. public sector job loss is even worse now. We are now at roughly 362 private sector jobs lost for every ONE public sector job. Shameful.