Gregoire’s legacy: UNSUSTAINABLE BUDGETS CEMENTED IN 2005
There has been an endless stream of gushing “news stories and fawning editorials recently that have tried to whitewash Gregoire’s 8-year tenure. I’m sick of it. It’s important that she not get away with rewriting history:
It was March 22, 2005.
Gregoire was the newly elected/selected Governor. And she submitted her first budget. Here’s what she said about it: “I don’t like it. It’s not sustainable. It’s what’s wrong with the budget in the state of Washington,” she said.
Members of her own Party ridiculed it: “Transferring funds and transferring them back to make it look like you did something – that is what is done here,” said Senate Ways and Means Chairwoman Margarita Prentice, D-Renton.
Rep. Helen Sommers, D-Seattle, chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, likewise said no one should think the problem has been solved. “When you’re using one-time money for long-term programs, it should be a sign to most people that you’re in trouble.”
A Seattle Times editorial said: Gregoire admits it is not sustainable. “I can’t put out a sustainable budget today because I didn’t inherit one.”
That literally makes no sense whatsoever.
But what she and the Democrat-controlled Legislature did a month later really cemented our state on a path of unsustainable budgets.
As reported then: The Democrat-controlled Senate joined House colleagues yesterday in sending Gov. Christine Gregoire a bill that changes voter-approved spending limits and allows taxes to be increased by a simple majority vote in the Legislature. The measure changes the I-601 spending cap to say the state’s budget can grow as fast as the 10-year average of growth in average personal income in the state, more generous than the original growth factor of population growth plus inflation.
Sen. Joseph Zarelli, R-Ridgefield, his party’s lead budget negotiator, said, “It’s a sad, sad day for Washington state taxpayers. “I fear we’re heading back to the days of double-digit state-budget increases and consistent tax increases. We shouldn’t be making it easier to raise taxes, we should be making it more difficult.” He said voters want lawmakers to live within the state’s means and stop turning to taxes. With the I-601 changes soon to be signed into law, “Those days [of restraint] are over, I guess. Now there is no reason, no motivation, for the government to spend wisely or efficiently.”
But Prentice said legislators in both parties had amended the original initiative so many times it had lost meaning. “We feel the new limit will be more realistic. We believe we’ll be in better shape financially in two years and we’ll be able to live within our means,” Prentice said.
Over the past eight years, if they could have restrained themselves and abided by I-601’s limits from 2005-2012, there wouldn’t have been the wrenching, disruptive roller-coaster of spending in Washington state.
Gregoire called her 2005 budget “a legacy budget.” She was correct. Her legacy has been of unsustainable budgets cemented in 2005.