The King County Sheriff’s Department, prosecutor’s office and other law enforcement officials have sounded the alarm over impending budget cuts, warning that they could result in a significant adverse impact on public safety. And no doubt that’s true.
But as municipal governments statewide struggle to cope with the economic downturn and its resulting decline in sales and property tax revenues, it is important to remember that the criminal justice system comprises over 70 percent of the general fund of nearly every county in the state, and thus any substantial decline in local tax revenues is going to inevitably impact public safety. You simply cannot effectively address substantial budget shortfalls without addressing the largest part of your budget.
Washington Democrats have every reason to be cheered over last Tuesday’s election results, but as far as I can tell our party leaders have no plan in place to address our long term state and local structural revenue deficit… a deficit that when adjusted for good and bad economic times, assures that tax revenues cannot possibly keep pace with economic growth, and thus cannot possibly keep pace with growth in demand for public services.
If what we want is a dramatically smaller government, we can elect Republicans, or, apparently, we can elect Democrats, and just gradually get to the same place by default. If that’s what voters really want, just don’t complain when the Sheriff’s Department starts laying off officers.