Sen. Majority Leader Lisa Brown: Lower Tax Revenues Equals Lower Quality of Life

Over the past couple weeks I’ve been posting a bit about budget priorities, pointing out that the decisions we make in Olympia in regard to both taxing and spending, reflect our priorities as a state.

For example, if lawmakers choose to cut yet another couple billion dollars from K-12 education while refusing to even consider the repeal of nonproductive, special interest tax exemptions, well, that reflects our priorities. If the state continues to slash funding and raise tuition at our community colleges and four-year universities at the same time businesses claim they can’t find enough qualified workers in the midst of near record-high unemployment, well, that reflects our priorities too.

And of course, the fact that our state and local governments have steadily shrunk themselves over the past couple decades both as a percentage of the total economy and in the number of FTEs compared to population, that sure as hell reflects our priorities, as does the fact that nationwide, Washington now ranks 45th in spending on K-12 education, but 14th in spending on corrections.

But unfortunately, when I write about stuff like this, I’m mostly ignored. Oh, call out the Seattle Times editorial board for licking Rob McKenna’s balls, and that might earn me a link from some self-anointed arbiter of journalistic integrity, but spend a little time and effort exploring the conventional “government must learn to live within its means” narrative, and refuting it with actual, you know, numbers, well that just elicits a collective yawn from our political press corps. I guess, because, I’m just some foul-mouthed local blogger (as opposed to a real journalist like Joni Balter), so you can just ignore my math, even when it’s lifted directly from the OFM. And… I sometimes use the word “fuck.”

Well, okay then… if you won’t pay attention to little ol’ me, perhaps you’ll listen to State Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, a trained economist, who on the Senate Dems blog writes about how we pride ourselves on being one of the top states in the nation in terms of quality of life, but how we’re increasingly at the bottom of the pack in terms of our willingness to pay for it:

In Washington, we want to be among the top quarter of states in public services, but we’re in the lower-half in amount paid in state and local taxes. In fact, we’re lagging far behind the same mid-West states like North Dakota and Minnesota that Lake Wobegon is meant to poke fun at.

We may laugh at the gap between what people from Lake Wobegon think of themselves and reality, but if Washington levied the same amount of state and local taxes per $1000 of personal income that North Dakota levies – North Dakota –  we’d have 29 percent more revenue than we have today. That’s more than $9 billion, which would more than cover our current revenue shortfall, and then some…

In Washington, we have a bigger Lake Wobegon gap than Lake Wobegon does. We’re in the third year of significant recessionary impacts on our state budget. And for the third year in a row, we hear loud talk about making Washington live within its means by cutting state spending to match diminished revenues.

The truth is, state spending compared to personal income has been declining for a decade. And all this talk about “living within our means” masks another important truth: We can’t keep cutting spending without downgrading the public services mentioned above. And if we keep downgrading these same services, we can’t expect to maintain our quality of life, much less improve it.

Both Sen. Brown and I are making the same basic assertion, and we’re making it based not on ideology, but on math. We cannot continue to shrink government, the services it provides and the human and infrastructure investments it makes, while continuing to maintain the quality of life Washingtonians have come to expect.

Republicans and their ball-lickers on the editorial boards would have you believe that we have no choice but to make do with tax revenues that continue to fall even as the economy recovers, but the reality is, thanks in part to the public investment of prior generations, we are a wealthy state that can afford to do more… particularly the wealthiest amongst us. Whether we choose to, well, that reflects our priorities.


  1. 1

    Blue John spews:

    This is a repost from another thread, but I think it’s very appropriate.

    Germany’s method of creating wealth is straightforward:
    1. Produce a highly educated workforce.
    2. Have that workforce create and make advanced, precision things for high wages.
    3. Export the things at a high price and then re-invest that money back into item 1.
    This is why Germany is the Number 2 exporter in the world despite having only 27 percent of America’s population and only 6 percent of Number 2 exporter China. The Germans realize they cannot beat either China or India based on cost. Advanced nations can’t compete on cost. America could bust all the unions, get rid of the minimum wage, eliminate all social benefits and taxation and we would still lose jobs to low-wage nations. Germany decided to avoid going down the same path of downward spiral among its middle class that we are in. Instead, they invest in their people and in research.

  2. 2

    Glenno spews:


    It all depends on “who’s” lower quality of life.

    You (and Lisa) give a very misleading title. Based on your title if paid 100% tax I would find Nirvana…

  3. 3

    Blue John spews:

    @2. That’s the best you got?
    You don’t comment on the merits of the argument, instead you nitpick on the wording of the headline.
    Talk about about pointless.

  4. 7

    Zotz sez: The microchip in Klynical's ass was transmitting 6... 6... 6... spews:

    If Lisa gets this, then there is some hope the leg will at least attempt to do the right thing.

    Here’s hoping that Lisa et al figure out how to send Sir Brad on a long, long (110 days or so, just to be sure) trip so he can’t rule the right thing out of order.

  5. 8

    meh spews:


    this kind of wonky talk never can persuade people. Dems need to say this for fifty years: “big, strong government, leads to more freedom and opportunity.”

    A bit of demonizing (truthfully) wouldn’t hurt either, as in: “The sepeculator rich are at it again…they will take your money off the front end, give you the back end debts to China every time. That’s what that tax cut extension deal is about. And they want to repeal heatlh care reform to reinstute death panels for profit again, that’s what insurers are death panels for profit.”

    Stuff like that.

  6. 9

    David Brumbalow spews:

    re 8: Big business and big government work hand in hand to the detriment of the average citizen.

    I noted on the front of the ST today that the government is aggrresively selling Boeing produts to overseas buyers, yet I’ve seen no right wing complaints arguing that this is government interfering in the free market.

  7. 10

    ArtFart isn't ready to be classified as a "useless eater" spews:

    Are the members of ST Editorial Board actually engaged in the licking of McKenna’s gonads, or are they still attempting to locate them?

  8. 11

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Oh c’mon Goldy, you’re arguing to a brick wall. You know the Seattle Times and the trailer park child-rapers won’t be satisfied until the last Child Protective Services worker is laid off.

  9. 12

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    There’s a larger issue here than money, which is the lack of social responsibility in Republican philosophy, rhetoric, and actions.

  10. 13

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    The Seattle Times editorial page merely mirrors Republican philosophy, rhetoric, and actions; so you can’t expect anything from them.

  11. 14

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    By simple logic, it follows that the Seattle Times is not a socially responsible newspaper.

  12. 15

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @2 Speaking of misleading, nobody’s asking you to pay 100% tax. That’s the mother of all red herrings, specious arguments, and outright lies. It proves you have no rational argument to make. Of course you don’t. The really is that Washington residents have given themselves massive tax cuts in the last three years by not buying cars and other stuff subject to sales tax. It’s our tax system that’s dysfunctional, not state spending. All the lying in the world by troglodytes like you won’t change that fact.

  13. 17

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @8 I’m definitely not one of the rich who will benefit from the hypocritical Republicans’ $900 billion add-on to the deficit with their billionaire tax cuts, but I strive mightily to be a weasal speculator who takes money out of the financial system for doing nothing, albeit on a much smaller scale. I made $1,150 in the stock market this morning while asleep in bed. Sure beats working.

  14. 18

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    I made $24,151.70 in the stock market last year. My original investment 24 years ago was $10,000. That’s a better return than the 1/10th of 1% that banks are paying on passbook savings right now. I sure do like this Republican system of free money and no taxes.

  15. 19

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Republicans are systematically transferring America’s output from workers to owners of capital, are eliminating millions of jobs, and reducing wages to third world levels; but that’s not a problem for me because I don’t work or produce anything. I’ll prosper because I’m a money-sucking leech just like they are.

  16. 20

    Proud To Be An Ass spews:

    @20: Exactly right. And that’s why exhortations to adequately fund state and local government so often falls on its face.

    Most of us are getting raped economically, and we want it to stop. If you lash out at your employer, you get fired….so lashing out at government is easy and we get heartless scumsucking toads like Chris Christie.

  17. 22

    your wife's pimp spews:

    shorter goldy:

    if everyone else pays more in taxes, and goldy continues to pay nothing, his quality of life will go up.

  18. 23

    your wife's pimp spews:


    sounds like a good reason to shit-can social security and have everyone invest their own money.

  19. 24

    Sean spews:

    “lack of social responsibility in Republican philosophy”

    Oh please. Go smoke crack, blow some sperm up various baby mamas’ hoochies and come back and lecture us about ‘social responsibility’.

  20. 25

    Sean spews:

    “Republicans love to whine about taxes they don’t pay”

    Guess you didn’t hear the Bush tax cuts only went from 39% to 36%.

  21. 26

    David spews:

    “Both Sen. Brown and I are making the same basic assertion, and we’re making it based not on ideology, but on math. We cannot continue to shrink government, the services it provides and the human and infrastructure investments it makes, while continuing to maintain the quality of life Washingtonians have come to expect.”

    Finally, someone gets it. You cannot expect Filet Mignon on a Mac & Cheese budget, no matter how much voodoo economics you employ.

  22. 27

    ld spews:

    18 Roger but your buddies Obama and his dumbocraps gang (YES THEY WERE IN POWER)wracked up 5 trillion in debt just since
    09/30/2007 9,007,653,372,262.48
    09/30/2010 13,561,623,030,891.79

    and a whopping 1 Trillion in debt in just the last 7 mo.

    So when all that comes due, you can bet your A that it will come tumbling down hard and fast and nothing you have in savings will be spared.

    There is a bad result to Debt!

  23. 28

    Xar spews:

    @7: Actually, they just need to pick their battles and times correctly. When the Lt. Gov. is away, Margheurita Prentice will be the Senate President and get to rule on motions.

    I don’t know for certain how she feels about I-960 and its constitutionality, but she is nearing retirement (and thus might be more willing to show some backbone).

    @27: Where was your whining about fiscal responsibility when Presidents George W. Bush and Reagan (aka Conservi-Jesus) were racking up then-record deficits and national debts by starting foreign wars of aggression, creating un-paid-for tax cuts, and ballooning the defense budget?

    It’s easy to balance budgets when you’re not stuck with incredibly expensive legacies from prior presidents. It took Clinton years to get the budget under control after Reagan and Bush I’s spendthrift. It was never realistic to expect Obama’s first few years to be budget-neutral.

  24. 29

    Armstrong spews:

    Obama and his dumbocraps gang (YES THEY WERE IN POWER)wracked up 5 trillion in debt just since
    09/30/2007 9,007,653,372,262.48
    09/30/2010 13,561,623,030,891.79

    “Obama’s” budget didn’t go into effect into 2010.

    and a whopping 1 Trillion in debt in just the last 7 mo.

    Yeah, amazing how that happens when you actually used proper budgeting practices which forces you to list the cost of waging 2 wars rather than erasing them off the books with “Emergency Expendetures”

    As for commenter #2, you know if companies fired 100% of their labor, they’d be infinitely profitable.