Tuesday, April 27, 2010

State Budget Solutions

I've been blogging recently for a new website/project called State Budget Solutions. In a nutshell, state budgets are in dire straits. I mean dire. And it's about time that we started looking at realistic solutions or we are all in deep you-know-what. We need reality based budgeting and this website/project, as it grows, will be integral to getting that information out to you. Then you can do something about it by contacting your legislators and writing letters to editors, and so on. Bookmark the website and friend us on Facebook and Twitter!

I've cross-posted my latest blog post below.

Tax Hikes in Washington State Now a Reality
Gov. Gregoire breaks her campaign promise
by KELI CARENDER April 26 ,2010

"I won't raise taxes in tough economic times. We're not going to be raising taxes."

Famous last words.

Friday, April 23, 2010 marks the day that Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire signed a new package of tax hikes into law. It also marks the day that she broke her pledge to avoid raising taxes, especially during the recession. Via the AP:

Calling it a "sensible and modest" solution to Washington's historic budget crisis, Gov. Chris Gregoire on Friday approved a revenue package that nets roughly $780 million to avoid deeper cuts in education, health care and human services.
The author neglects to question two very important assertions made by Governor Gregoire. The first is, do Washingtonians really need more taxes in order to avoid cutting education, health care and human services further? According to her, yes. According to the Evergreen Freedom Foundation (EFF), no, and not by a long shot. In fact, EFF found mountains of wasteful spending that Governor Gregoire and the Democrats running Olympia refuse to acknowledge, let alone cut.

So while the Governor attempts to frighten Washington residents into accepting multiple tax hikes this year, and most likely again next year, she and other Democrats in Olympia spend money on items like golf resorts. As Amber Gunn of EFF points out:

Today, taxpayers are being told that the choice is between people losing their feet and going homeless, or higher taxes. Is this really the debate we are going to have this session? Then perhaps the governor's budget team could quantify how many feet could be saved with money the state is spending on the $20,000 capitol holiday tree, the $30,000 state poet laureate, the $3 million capital investment in the museum of Flight Space Gallery in Seattle or $511,000 for the Chambers Bay golf resort in Tacoma. Sure, these few waste items won't save the budget, but it does illustrate the dysfunction of a system that puts those priorities above the ones the governor is claiming will have to be cut.
So let us dispense with the myth that cutting government spending automatically means states must make devastating cuts in education, health care, and protective services like police and first responders. Why does the Governor insist on cutting so-called "vital" services when she refuses to cut out the garbage first? If the AP author had done his job correctly, he would have asked that question first.

The second assertion that the author fails to challenge is the idea that the Democrats in Olympia somehow, miraculously, and against all odds, were able to solve a $9 billion deficit without raising taxes.

This year's budget was a tune-up of the main two-year state budget, which lasts through mid-2011. Democrats solved a roughly $9 billion deficit in the two-year budget in 2009 without raising taxes.
This claim is outright laughable. It is also a very real, and very unfortunate problem that plagues governors across the nation. Many of our country's Governors will claim that the state has a deficit of astronomical proportions, but they promise to do everything they can to solve the problem without raising taxes. The only complication here is that those huge deficits are frequently, literally made up. From Bob Williams of EFF:

Legislators of both parties allow bureaucrats to report a budget shortfall as the difference between what the governor wants to spend (not the current budget) vs the revenue forecast. We have not found any state that reports a shortfall as the difference between the current level of spending and the revenue forecast. Thus, most shortfalls are highly inflated.
So in reality, Governor Gregoire wanted to spend $9 billion more than the state was slated to collect in revenue. That is, the revenue that pays for existing and current programs and services. The dishonest and disingenuous part of this political theater is that she tried to make Washingtonians think that they were $9 billion underwater on current expenses, when in fact they are running a roughly $2.8 billion shortfall - due to increased spending, year after year, despite negative revenue forecasts - but that is just another piece of the puzzle.

Therefore, claiming that the Democrats and Gov. Gregoire were able to solve a nonexistent $9 billion deficit is laughable at best, and irresponsible, ignorant, partisan journalism at worst. Keep an eye out for more budget gimmicks and scare tactics as Gov. Gregoire realizes her recent tax hikes will not solve her problem of bloated and ineffective government.

Back in town!

Hello!

I can't believe I never got to post about our Tax Day Tea Parties! I rushed out of town the very next morning and it's been go-go-go ever since, going out of town a second time in one week. I'm getting married on Saturday as well so you can imagine how busy things are this week. Please forgive me for abandoning the blog.

First item, the Tea Parties!

The Tea Parties were a rousing success, all across the nation, and even in ol' blue Seattle. We had around 1,000 people in downtown Seattle, and about a dozen counter protesters. The counter protesters, by the way, were all white and old. They looked like a bunch of old, burned-out hippies with frazzled hair and they smelled of pot and patchouli. I thought it funny that they had no one else but white people in their group while we have many Tea Party members of all different races and ethnicities. Hmmmm. They must be racists then, obviously.

We had no problems with "infiltrators" and the Seattle Police Department were there to keep the peace, and they were wonderfully helpful. We had one guy right behind the stage who kept yelling "bullsh*t" while our speakers were talking, but we just ignored him and went on. Eventually a friend of mine engaged him in conversation and completely owned him as he had no real basis for his anger and beliefs.

Again, I am always amazed at the friendship, politeness, intelligence, patriotism, and all around niceness of our crowds. We cleaned up after ourselves, we didn't yell at people, we smiled and we had fun!

A big thanks goes out to all of our speakers and volunteers because this event would never, ever have happened without you all. My dad took some video of everyone and as soon as I get it I will update the post with the video.

I just can't say enough about how well it went!

I will say this though: the time for protesting is winding down as campaign season picks up. I will be choosing my candidates in the next couple of weeks and I will be spending much more time on their campaigns than I will on organizing protests. We must be victorious at the ballot box or we will be up a raging creek without a paddle. We will only win in November if each of you finds one or two candidates to support and you give it your all. We all must sacrifice to get good people elected. Please, please make your decisions as soon as possible and COMMIT!

Most of all, please don't give up. I've heard so many nasty things from supposedly decent people who claim to be my friend, and so I know it can be hard to keep going. But that is exactly the reason they are piling on. DO NOT LET THE HATERS WIN. They have no interest in dialogue, they only seek to destroy you, your motivation, your emotions, your energy, and our movement.

It is up to you whether or not they are successful.

Second item, my wedding!

I just wanted to give a brief description as people have been asking about it. We are getting married in a very small, immediate-family-only wedding. I don't need giant production and I certainly don't have the money for one. With the economy the way it is, and the direction in which Obamanomics is taking us all, I didn't want to spend frivolously. You see, unlike the government, I look at my revenue and my expenses and I decide whether or not I can afford something. When I decide that I cannot, I move on and I do not buy it. Duh! That's the same reason we're not honeymooning yet. It's just not in the cards for us right now. Do I wish that we could afford a great, tropical honeymoon? Of course, but we can't, so we have that as a goal to work towards. The important thing is the marriage, not the other stuff surrounding it.

Thanks for all of your kind words and support and forgive me for the lack of posting last week and this week!

Happy Tuesday!