According to Publicola, Gov. Chris Gregoire told a Seattle audience last night that she would not accept an all-cuts budget in 2010… a 180-degree turnaround from her position heading into the difficult 2009 legislative session. What’s changed her mind?
Well, obviously, the $2.6 billion projected revenue shortfall is nearly impossible to fill in one year with less than $10 billion of discretionary spending on the chopping block, so as I wrote yesterday, some mix of cuts and revenue increases is the obvious and responsible approach to the crisis. But in another sense, nothing’s changed.
The economy was nearly as bad this time last year, and getting worse, and nearly everybody who studied the numbers understood that additional cuts would likely be needed in 2010 as revenues continued to fall. Had the governor and legislature taken a more balanced approach at that time, both the cuts and the tax increases, spread out over a full two years, could have been less severe and less disruptive.
I’m loathe to kick a gift horse in the mouth now that the governor is finally on board, but there was a failure of leadership last year — particularly from Speaker Frank Chopp and the governor — to do the right thing regardless of how unpopular it might have been with the editorial boards… and regardless of what campaign promises might have been made before anybody realized how deep the coming recession would be. Here’s hoping the Democratic leadership is willing to make up for last year’s lapse, not merely by considering some targeted tax hikes, but by allowing proponents to conduct a real debate about the merits of a high-earners income tax.