Is it Dino’s budget? Or not?

Dino Rossi takes credit for the 2003 state budget:

Ultimately, Dino became a leader on state budget issues and was the Chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee in 2003 when the state faced the largest dollar deficit in history.

In this leadership position, Dino worked across party lines to balance the state budget without raising taxes, while still protecting the most vulnerable.

…but wasn’t he just following the Governor’s lead?

The Republican budget has much in common with the all-cuts plan that Democratic Gov. Gary Locke unveiled in December. In fact, Rossi opened a press briefing yesterday with a PowerPoint presentation titled: “Following the Governor’s Lead.”

So when some liberal interest groups attack Rossi’s 2003 budget for cutting teacher COLAs and poor kids off Basic Health, how far will some go to apologize for it?

Funny thing, they refer to a Rossi budget, rather than a Rossi-Locke-Chopp-Reardon budget.

If the budget ain’t Rossi’s, then he can’t take credit for it. If he takes credit for the budget, then he gets some of the blame as well. It would be cool if the press looked in to this. Until then, more flip floppin’ from Dino is expected.

Comments

  1. 2

    rhp6033 spews:

    Fair enough – it was a compromise, nobody was entirely happy with the results.

    But Rossi was happy for all the wrong reasons – and he was also unhappy for all the wrong reasons.

  2. 3

    Hannah spews:

    Question? Since the 2003 budget is done and closed and those teacher COLAS were a cut in the ’03 budget…in this new budget do those COLAS get re-instated as promised?

  3. 4

    smitty spews:

    Dino likes to talk about this budget accept for the part about cutting kids off healthcare and cutting teacher pay.

    You can’t have it both ways my friend. You wrote the budget.

  4. 5

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @3 Hannah, the teachers will never get back pay for the COLAs that were eliminated from the 2003 budget. What they try to do is get salary catch ups that bring pay levels current again.

    You should understand, however, that another large group of workers — state employees — gets paid from the same pot of cash and for decades a tension has existed between state workers and public school teachers as they compete for the same limited resources — and the teachers always win.

    Here’s how it works: Public schools not only teach children, they’re also babysitters. Teacher strikes cause panic among parents because when the schools are closed they have no place to park their kids while they work. Most families can’t tolerate more than a few days of this, so parents bring intense pressure on school officials and legislators to settle with the teachers. This is invariably accomplished by caving in to the teachers’ demands.

    What happens next is the Legislature takes money away from state employee COLAs and gives it to the teachers to settle the strikes. For decades, state employees were legally barred from striking, and had never gone on strike, so there was nothing they could do about it. State employees sat by helplessly as one Legislature after another punished state employees for not striking by taking money away from them and giving it to teachers as a reward for striking.

    Inevitably, this led to state salaries being far below what other people were paid for similar work, and this in turn led to high turnover in state jobs. This turnover increases state training costs and also costs the state money through the mistakes made by inexperienced new employees. Typically, people who take state jobs to get a little experience, then move on to better paying jobs after a couple years. For example, caseworkers in Child Protective Services, which is responsible for protecting children for neglect, abuse, and exploitation, typically had less than 2 years of experience in the job and consequently our state suffered a string of disasters — typically resulting in the deaths of infants and young children who were returned to abusive families by inexperienced caseworkers.

    Some years ago, the Legislature passed a law that automatically gave catch up raises to state employees in job categories whose salaries were more than 25% below the salary survey. But instead of coming up with the money for raises, they cheated by using old, outdated salary surveys to claim the salary schedules were within the 25%.

    All of this led to immense frustration among state workers, who finally staged an illegal wildcat strike in 2001 or 2002 (I forget the exact year). Since then, the Legislature has passed civil service reform and given state workers collective bargaining rights, but they still don’t have the right to strike, and without that right, they really don’t have much leverage on the Legislature when it comes to getting their fair share of the limited money available for teacher and state worker raises. All they can do is try to elect a governor and state legislators who are somewhat friendly to their concerns.

    In that respect, for years Republicans have been uniformly hostile to state workers. For example, one GOP state senator suggested that all state workers be paid minimum wage. If that happened, many (if not most) would quit and state government would collapse. Many other GOP legislators equated state employment with receiving welfare, which, of course, had a lousy effect on employee morale.

    Unfortunately, voting for Democrats produced only marginally better results. Gov. Gregoire, who herself worked her way up through the state employee ranks from a job as DSHS caseworker to the state’s top elected office, is the first governor in over 30 years to take state employee salary concerns seriously. Dixie Lee Ray, Booth Gardner, Gary Locke, all Democrats, did little or nothing for state employees. All received significant political support from state workers and their families, but all turned out to be huge disappointments when it came to supporting state employees.

    Our state’s last Republican governor, John Spellman, treated state employees so badly he helped ensure that the 100,000 state workers and their families would never vote Republican again. He actually stopped paying them. In the middle of a budget crisis during the Reagan Depression of the early 1980s, Gov. Spellman gave state workers only 24 hours notice that they would not get their paychecks on the scheduled payday, and would have to wait 6 weeks for their next paycheck. But it got worse. Spellman went even further and ordered DSHS to deny food stamp applications by state employees, some of whose families would have been eligible for food stamps. These people not only couldn’t pay their rent or mortgages, some of them literally couldn’t eat or feed their families, and had to go to food banks. A lawsuit by Evergreen Legal Services eventually determined that Spellman’s food stamp order was illegal, but it took almost 3 years of legal wrangling before the eligible state workers got their food stamps.

    Personally, I sympathize with the teachers’ desire to be paid decent salaries for the important work they do. However, state employees also do important work: They guard prison inmates, plow snow from highways in winter, regulate businesses to protect the public health and safety, provide benefits to unemployed and injured workers, conduct workplace safety inspections, and so on. They also deserve to be paid decent salaries.

    What I’ve seen happen over the years is something like this. As a lawyer working for state agencies, I knew that experienced teachers at the top of the salary scale in the large school districts in King, Snohomish, and Pierce counties were paid more than I was — they weren’t exactly hurting. By contrast, pay for beginning teachers was terrible. I didn’t see the well-paid teachers do anything to help the new teachers. To the contrary, they tried to hog the COLA money for themselves and their attitude seemed to be, to hell with the young teachers, they can spend 20 years working their way up to the top of the salary scale like I did. And, over and over again, I saw the state workers get screwed when teachers when on strike to extort money from the Legislature that should have gone to state workers. The situation was so bad for state workers under Gov. Locke that they went for 6 years without a COLA, and believe me, Hannah, the state not only will never give the state workers back pay for that, the state still hasn’t caught up with the salary lag that created.

    So, while I still have sympathy for teachers, I’ve come to make a distinction between young new teachers who are low on the salary totem pole and the selfish, greedy, veteran teachers who are using the strike power to not only screw state workers but to screw their young colleagues as well. The only thing this well-paid teachers care about is putting even more money in their own pockets. I have no respect for that, or for them. On the other side of the coin, I think it’s 30 years past time for state employees to walk out and completely shut down state government until the governor and Legislature come up with a salary plan for state workers that treats them fairly — and makes sure it’s funded. What we’ve learned from experience is that it will take coercion to be able to compete with the coercion that striking teachers use to get what they want at the expense of other, equally deserving, public employee groups. In the meantime, I have a very negative attitude about teacher strikes and I’m just about at the point where I’m ready to say to these veteran teachers, fuck you jack.

  5. 6

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Of course, Dino Rossi would do nothing for either teachers or state employees. He’s one of those anti-government Republicans who thinks public employees deserve to be treated like snot because they chose to devote their working careers to benefiting all of us, instead of working in private enterprise in pursuit of personal gain.

  6. 7

    Mr. Cynical spews:

    Rog-
    In the real world, folks don’t always get COLA’s and private business owners sometimes get paycuts when the economy is bad. How come government workers never get cuts??

  7. 8

    ArtFart spews:

    5/6 Worse yet, Dino, Zombie Guzzo and their pals will use a few less-than-altruistic older teachers as poster children (like the semi-mythical “welfare mother” stereotype used by the Reaganites in the 80’s) to justify their rabid hacking away at the whole public school system.

    And Mr. C….Government workers do indeed get pay cuts. 100% pay cuts, when the people you support defund whatever organization they’re working for.

    Dipshit.

  8. 9

    rhp6033 spews:

    A fairly smart fellow once told me: “If you want to get average workers, pay average wages. If you want sub-average workers, pay less than the going wage. If you want excellent workers, you have to pay more than the average wage”.

    But Republicans want to pay government workers at far less than the private industry wage levels, and then complain that they don’t perform as well.

    Fortunately, we have some government workers who do the work well regardless, just because they consider themselves public servants and take pride in their work.

  9. 10

    I-Burn spews:

    @5 Would you consider Teachers’ Unions in general, and State employees’ Unions to be apolitical or not? With which party does the overwhelming majority of their money end up? Might that have something to do with Republican antipathy? It’s pretty hard to argue that Republicans should be accomdating organizations which work relentlessly against them, wouldn’t you think?

  10. 12

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @7 Government workers do get pay cuts. We have this man-made phenomenon called Inflation. When inflation is 6% and your pay raise is 0%, you’re getting a 6% pay cut. But we also have a competitive labor market, and when a government or a company keeps cutting employee pay by not keeping up with Inflation, the employees eventually will accept a better offer somewhere else. At some point, they can’t even afford to work for you anymore. For decades, we have had high turnover in state jobs because of the Legislature’s persistent failure to keep up with Inflation. In the long run, this ends up costing the state more, because of training costs and expensive mistakes made by inexperienced employees. For example, one job category the state is persistently unable to fill is bridge engineers. Remember what happened to the I-90 floating bridge? It’s on the bottom of Lake Washington. How much did THAT cost Washington taxpayers? It would have been cheaper to keep some qualified bridge engineers on the WSDOT staff by paying them a competitive salary. You can’t expect people to do that kind of work for $35,000 or $40,000 a year. Not experienced people, anyway.

  11. 13

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @7 In the real world, Cynical, private business owners take the most financial risks but also get the highest pay when their business plan works. That’s why they do it.

    Comparing a state worker making $35,000 or $40,000 a year to a business owner earning hundreds of thousands of dollars a year who may have an occasional money-losing year when the economy’s bad is ludicrous. Lots of business owners live in million-dollar homes; no state employees do.

    As usual, you’re full of shit. Did you buy NOV at $28 (adjusted for split) like I told you? It closed today above $64. You should listen to the Rabbit. You don’t know what you’re doing, but I know what I’m talking about.

  12. 14

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @9 In fact, government workers consistently outperform the private sector. This is easy to demonstrate: All you have to do is give their work to a private contractor and see what happens. The result is always the same: You end up paying more and the work is often shoddy. Private businesses have the same costs that government does, and in addition, they demand a profit. So why would anyone with any common sense believe the private sector can do anything cheaper?

  13. 15

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @11 Bullshit. State workers have done better under Gregoire than any governor of the last 30 years.

  14. 16

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @11 I should add that many state workers would be dissatisfied with a mere 18% raise because their salaries are much farther behind the salary survey than that. When I retired, my job class was 36% below the salary survey.

  15. 17

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Put it this way, a union beer truck driver with a CDL license made more money than I did as a lawyer with 7 years of college education and 30 years of legal experience. That’s one of the reasons I don’t work anymore. That’s bullshit. I can make more money and pay lower taxes by flipping stocks, so why should I work or produce anything?

  16. 18

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    You give up something in economic advantages to serve the public and do work that makes you feel good but there’s a limit to what you can afford to work for. I retired because my pension was more than my salary after deducting work expenses. I was losing money by continuing to work, so I don’t work anymore. What I did was work, not a hobby, and it was hard and demanding and I expected to be paid for it just like everyone else expects to be paid for their work. Some people (mostly Republicans) think of government employment as volunteer work. I say, if that’s your attitude, you can do what government workers do yourself, because I won’t do it for you for free.

  17. 19

    ArtFart spews:

    12 “Remember what happened to the I-90 floating bridge? It’s on the bottom of Lake Washington. How much did THAT cost Washington taxpayers?”

    Actually, most likely it cost less to build the replacement bridge than it would have to refurbish the old one. The sinking might be viewed as….er, a fortunate coincidence.

  18. 20

    I-Burn spews:

    @18 Roger, I have no doubt that you, and countless other public employees, work(ed) very hard. The perception exists, rightly or not, that government work is safe, secure, and doesn’t depend on doing a good job. For every one of y’all that earns your pay, there is at least one who flat out doesn’t. I would guess that everyone on HA could write something about that. Hell, you want to see “hard workers”, check out the Mill Creek Post Office sometime. People lined up out the door, with one or two PO workers helping them and other employees just sitting there doing, apparently, nothing.

  19. 21

    Mr. Cynical spews:

    I enjoy you KLOWNS ignoring the pending 2009 (or sooner) State Budget trainwreck trying to somehow deflect your out of control overspending on the 2003 State Budget??
    Gimmee a break.
    Folks ain’t gonna buy this.
    Gregoire tried to buy this re-election with out of control spending, new state union workers & other payoffs to her supporters. She also failed to address the underfunded State Retirement Fund and even with massive Gas Tax increases, has yet to fix problems like US-2, the viaduct and other obvious problems like DSHS.
    28 years of Democrats in the Governors Mansion is 24 too many. The chickens are about to come home to roost.
    Keep trying to shift the blame to Rossi.
    It’s a stretch that doesn’t come close to reaching.

  20. 22

    Chuck spews:

    Roger Rabbit says@14
    I think you are supplying a false comparison using the prevailing wage. A truer comparison would be using a new Walmart, Costco building or even a Boeing or Toyota plant. I think you will find that the private sector by and large gets a better product for a far greater price when you consider government projects of simular preportions.

  21. 23

    zip spews:

    Roger 12

    “Remember what happened to the I-90 floating bridge? It’s on the bottom of Lake Washington…..It would have been cheaper to keep some qualified bridge engineers on the WSDOT staff by paying them a competitive salary.”

    You are totally off base, Roger. WSDOT bridge engineers at the time of the sinking were (1) well paid, (2) very qualified (interntionally renowned for floating bridge engineering) and (3) senior on the WSDOT staff. Check the WSDOT web site: they still pay engineer salaries that are competitive with private consulting firms.

    At the time of the sinking, WSDOT was under fire for keeping too much work in house and not parcelling enough out to private consulting firms. They still have that problem. WSDOT provides a number of engineering functions that can be done better, cheaper and more efficiently by the private sector. Adjacent states (like Idaho) farm more functions out and are actually improving and maintaining their highways. Now tell me how thats Dino’s fault?

    All of this seems to say you are full of BS, but of course that was already made obvious by your quantity of meaningless comments.

    Just like YLB yesterday pinning the Minnesota bridge collapse on something a Republican should have done (according to him). Even the quotations he printed support the FACT that bridge inspections were done to all applicable standards, and the bridge passed the insections. The bridge had a design flaw remnant from its original construction that could not have been discovered during bridge inspections.

    You lefties can whine about Dino taking away kiddie’s health care, etc etc blah blah blah, but your BS about factual matters destroys all credibility.

  22. 24

    Hannah spews:

    Ok here’s my view. Dino was on the 03 budget, and yes he nixed teachers COLAS, but based on democratic governor recommendations, correct? Sorry still learning here.

    Now Dino has been out of office since 05 and this new budget once again cut out the COLAS. Who are we blaming for this cut out? And am I correct that Gregoire gave a straight across the board raise to all state employees (NOT including teachers) when she took office?

    I understand the need for colas for employees, oh I haven’t had a raise in 3 years (private tech sector) since my company is just staying afloat with rising prices for everything. And I also understand the need to have competitive wages in government jobs. I actually applied for a City job a few years ago, less work than my current job but the pay was $800 more per month with AMAZING bennies. So I feel some jobs pay quite a bit more than the private sector especially when you add in the bennie package.

    So I guess my question here is who in our state government decided to cut out colas for the teachers, AGAIN, in this new budget that Rossi has no say in? We can’t blame him, right? Or is this rollovers from that old budget?

  23. 25

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @19 In that case, the state’s $35,000-a-year bridge engineers should have gotten a bonus.

  24. 26

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @20 What you say about the Mill Creek post office may be true; I’ve never been there, so I don’t know what goes on there. However, I’ve been around government long enough to not take a statement like yours at face value. Unless you inquired, you don’t know why those other employees didn’t work the window. They may, in fact, have been busy even though that wasn’t visibly apparent to you. A highly likely possibility is that they weren’t allowed to work the customer window for various reasons — job classification, training, etc. The big difference between the window clerks and the back room mail handlers is the clerks handle money. Have you ever seen a retail store that allowed the guys who unload trucks to run the cash register?

  25. 27

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    It’s my general understanding that postal employees have a union, and most union contracts prevent employers from using employees out of their job classification. If I were the business agent of a postal workers union local, I’d get upset about management assigning mail handlers to the customer window, because I’d want to protect the window clerks’ jobs.

  26. 28

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @21 After 10 years of GOP obstructionism, there was a lot of catching up to do with this state’s basic needs in transportation, education, etc. Gregoire did the job that voters elected her to do: To spend money on programs the voters wanted that the losing candidate didn’t support. That’s why they elected her instead of him.

    As for the coming 2009 budget trainwreck, that’s not Gregoire’s fault, the blame for that lies with our antiquated, patchwork, Rube Goldberg tax system. When you make state government dependent on sales tax revenues, naturally revenues will fluctuate with the economy.

    Just to show you how irredeemably stupid Republicans are, they want to replace one of the best depression-preventers we have, the Social Security program, with Wall Street investment accounts.

    Social Security is a tremendous program. Many experts have called it the most successful government program in the history of the world. It eradicated elder poverty in the United States, and extended Americans’ average lifespan by 3 years. It also performs an extremely important economic function. About two-thirds of U.S. economic activity depends on consumer spending, and Social Security checks get spent in good times and bad, no matter what the business cycle is doing or how high unemployment gets. This puts a floor under how far consumer spending, and therefore business activity, can sink when other aspects of the economy (such as credit and employment) are misfiring.

    And Republicans want to trade this for the volatility and downside risks of the stock market. Cripes, how fucking stupid can people be?

  27. 29

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @22 I haven’t said a fucking thing about “prevailing wage” in this thread, and based on your comment, I don’t think you know what “prevailing wage” is.

  28. 30

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @22 My interpretation of your comment is that you think private companies like Wal-Mart and Boeing get better buildings for a lower price. No evidence supports your “better buildings” arguments. The practical effect of the federal Davis-Bacon Act, and similar state laws, often is to require paying local union construction wages on public works projects. What’s wrong with that? Are you against construction workers being paid a living wage so they can support their families? Your Boeing-Walmart argument is a red herring because projects of that size require hiring large contractors who usually employ union labor, so they’re paying the same labor cost that government is. If you’re a small businessman who hired a small contractor employing non-union labor to build small store or other small structure, then yes, you may realize some cost savings from lower labor rates — if the contractor doesn’t keep it all as extra profit. But labor is only one component, and not the largest one, of construction costs. The total cost of a project is impacted far more by the cost of materials and land, and with respect to these costs private companies are at a disadvantage compared to government, which can use its purchasing power to leverage lower prices and can use the power of eminent domain to acquire land at lower prices than might be required to induce the owner to voluntarily sell. (After all, if he’s willing to sell, you don’t need eminent domain.)

    Certain types of government projects — notably highways, dams, and airports — do tend to cost more (according to unit measures) than similar private sector construction, but not for the reason you stated. This has nothing to do with prevailing wage or what the workers are paid. Government does something private companies don’t: There’s a lot of expensive process built into the costs of the project. We don’t build highways, dams, or airports without considering public input. Public hearings, environmental reviews, and the staffs necessary to deal with community groups and answer citizen letters, requests for information, and so on, all cost extra money. Process, and considering public input, is a large part of what government does in nearly all government projects and programs, but it’s something we want and are willing to pay for because we want government to be responsive to the citizens in a way that private companies don’t have to be. Also, some of the costs of private sector construction projects are shifted to the public sector, because these companies don’t necessarily pay the full costs of the permitting process, environmental reviews, public hearings, regulatory oversight, and so on. The costs of those governmental functions are born by the taxpayers in both public and private projects, and the fact they’re shifted to the public when the private sector builds things makes private projects appear cheaper than they really are because the companies’ out-of-pocket costs don’t reflect all of the costs.

  29. 31

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @23 In all the years I worked for the state, I never saw a time when WSDOT didn’t have openings for bridge engineers, and the salary ranges are posted in the job announcements, so I knew what those positions paid. It was my distinct impression that bridge engineers were like prison guards: There were always openings because they could never hire enough qualified people for what the state was willing to pay.

  30. 32

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @23 (continued) Yes, of course WSDOT assigned their most senior bridge engineers to the I-90 project, and they really knew what they were doing didn’t they? IMHO the gurgling noise the bridge made is it went under speaks for itself.

  31. 34

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @24 “Dino was on the 03 budget, and yes he nixed teachers COLAS, but based on democratic governor recommendations, correct?”

    Neither the senate’s chief budget writer (Rossi) nor the governor (Locke) supported those raises, but that doesn’t mean the one guided the other. Especially as they were from different parties, the only reasonable way to interpret the situation is they independently arrived at the same outcome.

    “Now Dino has been out of office since 05 and this new budget once again cut out the COLAS. Who are we blaming for this cut out?”

    The state constitution prohibits deficit spending, so the blame lies with declining revenues, which is not the fault of anyone in state government as they have no control over the economy. The money for the COLAs simply isn’t there, and they can’t spend money they don’t have. In the face of declining revenues, the only way to get that money would be by taking it from other programs, for example, by releasing convicts from prison or evicting helpless elderly people from nursing homes.

    “And am I correct that Gregoire gave a straight across the board raise to all state employees (NOT including teachers) when she took office?”

    Yes, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. The state of Washington operates on a two-year budget. A new budget cycle starts on July 1 of odd-numbered years. Under normal conditions, a new budget will contain a standard COLA for all state employees, but it’s usually pretty small, e.g. 1.5% a year. State employees often get part of their COLAs from salary survey adjustments to their job class. There is nothing straightforward about these salary adjustments; they not only vary between job classes, but also vary between agencies. Salary surveys can be, and are, manipulated by agencies. And the Legislature often fails to fully fund these adjustments, and sometimes doesn’t fund them at all. About the only thing you can say about state worker raises with any confidence is that they consistently tend to be less than the rate of inflation for years at a stretch, and then every once in a while you get a governor and a Legislature that fund a larger-than-normal cost-of-living catch-up because salaries have eroded so much they’re having trouble recruiting and retaining essential employees. That is what happened after Gregoire became governor and Democrats won control of both houses of the Legislature. In the 6 years preceding Gregoire’s first year in office, state employees received no COLAs at all.

    “I understand the need for colas for employees, oh I haven’t had a raise in 3 years (private tech sector) since my company is just staying afloat with rising prices for everything. And I also understand the need to have competitive wages in government jobs. I actually applied for a City job a few years ago, less work than my current job but the pay was $800 more per month with AMAZING bennies. So I feel some jobs pay quite a bit more than the private sector especially when you add in the bennie package.”

    Large companies typically pay more than government but their bennies may not be as good. Small businesses often pay less than government jobs because they can’t afford to compete with large organizations (big corporations and government) for workers. In eastern Washington, state jobs may be the best paying jobs available in town, because everything else is minimum wage. On the other hand, in Seattle, where the cost of living is higher, state workers get paid the same as their counterparts in Ephrata or Grays Harbor and struggle to make ends meet faced with Seattle’s much higher housing costs. Federal jobs often pay an extra cost-of-living increment to workers living in high-cost areas (such as Alaska or Washington D.C.)

    The bottom line is, no employer pays its workers anything out of generosity. They pay what they have to, to get people to work for them. The labor market is competitive and, as your own experience shows, if your employer isn’t doing well enough to pay you a competitive wage, he risks losing you to an employer who can pay more and/or provide better benefits. But studies have shown that compensation is not necessarily the determining factor in whether employees stay or leave. Many people stay in a lower paying job because they like the work or don’t want to relocate. After you’ve worked in government for a number of years, it becomes hard to leave because you’ve got an investment in your accumulated pension eligibility and you’re too old to start accumulating pension credits from scratch somewhere else. Another major reason why people stay in jobs they might otherwise leave is if the job offers health benefits they can’t get elsewhere. This is becoming a bigger issue for workers every year as more and more private employers stop providing health benefits to their employees.

  32. 36

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @24 (continued) “So I guess my question here is who in our state government decided to cut out colas for the teachers, AGAIN, in this new budget that Rossi has no say in? We can’t blame him, right? Or is this rollovers from that old budget?”

    Rossi served only 1 six-year term in the state senate and left the Legislature years ago, so he has no say in writing the current budget. The problem is that state revenues are declining because of the weakening economy, so the Legislature can’t spend as much money in the remaining year of this biennium or in the next biennium as they wanted to. They really don’t have a lot of discretion over how to spend the money that’s available because all of the state government expenses large enough to make a difference are locked in. For example, half of the state budget goes to education. The other large programs are prisons, transportation, and social services. Transportation is funded by dedicated taxes (primarily the gas tax and MVET) that by law can’t be spent on anything else, so you can’t use that money for teacher raises. Do you want to release criminals from prison to give teachers COLAs? Probably not a single legislator would vote for that. The only budget of any size that can be “raided” for spending more on education is social services, but DSHS programs were cut to the bone years ago, there’s no fat left in that agency, and there would be real consequences for diverting that money to education.

    To expand a little on the DSHS budget, first of all, at least two large DSHS programs — vocational rehabilitation and child support enforcement — are funded with federal money earmarked for that purpose which can’t be used for other programs or agencies. Some DSHS programs, such as child and adult protective services, are so essential to public health and safety that cutting those programs would be as bad as releasing criminals from jail. By far the biggest spending in the DSHS budget is for medical services, which break into two major parts, Medicaid for poor families (mostly children) and Medicaid for indigent elderly in nursing homes who need supervision and nursing care, are unable to live in their own homes, and have no one to take care of them. Keep in mind that Medicaid spending is matched by the federal government, so to save $1 of state funds you have to cut $2 of Medicaid expenditures on poor kids or nursing home patients.

    Another factor to think about when discussing the state budget is that our state’s population is growing rapidly, and while more people pay more taxes, they also consume more government services. In addition, every year the dollar buys less because of inflation. So, to deal with population growth and inflation, you have to spend more dollars just to keep existing programs and services at the same level.

    When you examine the entire state budget in detail, what emerges is that the Legislature can make choices about only a couple percent of the total budget, if that much, and there are lots of groups, citizens, agencies, and programs competing for the same dollars, so choices have to be made about who gets and who doesn’t get the small percentage of the total budget that the Legislature can control. Rossi dealt with the 2002 recession and revenue shortfall by eliminating Medicaid benefits for 40,000 poor kids. The 2008 Legislature, which is writing only a supplemental budget because this is an even-numbered year, does not have the money for teacher COLAs because the economy has slowed down and less revenue is coming in than originally projected. It’s not entirely fair to say the legislators decided not to give the teachers these COLAs, because they have no control over how much revenue there is, and the declining revenues forced this decision on them. They couldn’t spend this money because it isn’t coming in, and they couldn’t take the money from other programs for the reasons I’ve stated. It’s kind of like deciding not to go to the movies because there’s no money left in your bank account.

  33. 37

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    If you don’t go to the movies because you have no money, it’s not really your decision; the decision was forced on you by circumstances. That’s exactly what is happening with the state budget as the economy slows down and state revenues fall below projections.

  34. 39

    Hannah spews:

    Roger- I understand the slowing economy argument today. But just a year ago, our goverment was touting how great our state was doing, boosting revenues, economy running strong.

    This is the first instance over just the past few months that tax revenue is less than predicted, yet the budget is quite a bit higher than the last budget, so the budget is quite a bit higher because Washington has had an extremely strong economy (Gregoire’s words)?

    Now the explaination of no teacher COLAS is the economy has been slowing all these years? So was Gregoire’s statement of our state having an extremely strong economy false?

  35. 40

    Hannah spews:

    I think I am beginning to realize all politicians, dems and reps tend to lie to get the people to believe in them. Just like the “I won’t raise taxes, elect me” then as soon as they get into office, guess what?! We are raising taxes! (our current state admin is a perfect example)…ARGH!

  36. 41

    zip spews:

    Roger 31, 32

    They’ve always had openings for bridge engineers because good ones are hard to find. Private firms had openings at the same time, your observations prove nothing. I have no clue how WSDOT’s pay stacked up at that time, but today it is very competitive, especially when benefits are factored in.

    You’re still trying to link the bridge sinking to the quality of WSDOT’s most senior bridge engineers. Somehow that is supposed to prove that Republicans are evil. Since there is not a bridge engineer in the world who agrees with your assessment of WSDOT’s lack of quality, I smell BS.

    You realize what you are doing, right? Disrespecting one of the few pockets of state govt. that even a “wingnut troll” like me respects. Retract and move on.