March 02, 2009
Olympia's Budget Train Wreck

Do take a couple minutes to read this interesting, in-depth post from Richard Davis on the topic of the almost non-existent news from the state Legislature as they deal with a massive budget shortfall:

Among the sadly dwindling team of reporters covering the Legislature, some are showing impatience with the pace and transparency of budget deliberations. This late in the game, it's fair to assume that one of two things is true: Either there's a plan for resolving the shortfall and no one's willing to talk about it, or there's no plan and no one's willing to admit it. Neither option is particularly appealing.

Davis's post includes a nice collection of relevant links, including this from Brad Shannon at the Olympian:

The simplest answer is the Democrats are at a complete loss over what to do. They waited for the stimulus package to help, but the preliminary revenue forecast of Feb. 19 showed new revenue losses that pretty well wiped out the gains from the stimulus. The Democrats don't appear to have any answers yet.

In sum, with the twist of key legislators staying tight-lipped, there is an increasing sense of a drifting, "what do we do now?" process at which reporters are starting to chafe for lack of information.

Am I alone in sensing that the chaos derived from lack of consensus is ruling the day here, and will soon spill out in public?

Posted by Eric Earling at March 02, 2009 04:16 PM | Email This
Comments
1. I believe I heard today (on either the Dave Ross or Dori Monson Show on KIRO) that a (somewhat detailed) tax increase proposal was being readied for public vote? Is that not the case?

Posted by: Duffman on March 2, 2009 04:07 PM
2. I'm sure they are spending their time contemplating how big of a tax increase they can conceivably get away with. You can bet there will be no budget cuts of any substance. Layoffs are for taxpayers, not bureaucrats.

Any bets on how long it is before the state income tax proposal becomes official? I'm guessing when the next revenue forecast shows that things are even worse, that will be the pretext they need.

After all, the Deomcrats new motto is 'never waste a good crisis'.

Posted by: Kato on March 2, 2009 04:12 PM
3. I understand that they only are looking to get around the next corner with some kind of budget shell game and have no plans or ideas for long term solutions. Meanwhile social and environmental issues seem to have their full attention.

Posted by: ROCKETMAN on March 2, 2009 04:23 PM
4. 10% cuts across the boards with a modest tax increase.

At some point, salaries have to be cut, or staff reductions are needed. Also, how about some deregulation?

Posted by: swatter on March 2, 2009 04:30 PM
5. And lack of consensus isn't really a lack of consensus at all, but one that is impossible to adopt. First, the 21st Century Democrat simply does not know how to keep from spending more than they've spent before. And secondly, they certainly don't know how to spend less.

Gregoire and the Dems exploded state spending in 4 years by 30%, and now they've got ~15% less money. It's a Democrat's nightmare, in an environment where they know that tax increases will clobber revenues even further.

How do they take back the giveaways to their base?

Posted by: Reality on March 2, 2009 04:30 PM
6. I'm sorry this is slightly off topic, although it does deal with taxes. I have a question for those of you who understand tax structure more than I. Obama's stimulus involves withholding $12 per paycheck less in order to "stimulate" folks. It's being called a tax cut. My understanding is that the tax tables have not changed for 2009, and are not anticipated to change. Does this not mean that those folks who have taxes withheld from their income will have it calculated at the gross and whatever percentage applies, which will not have changed, and therefore will actually have to pay tax on that $12 per week at tax time for 2009 earnings? Sounds like a grand shell game to me. If this is indeed the case, then the rumblings will only begin when folks who count on a tax return for overpayment will find it is about $400 less than usual! Only then will realize the game's up!

Posted by: katomar on March 2, 2009 05:03 PM
7. Eric--
Richard Davis, like you, has completely missed the even bigger story of the State Pension Fund losing $15.6 BILLION the past 15 months when they projected profits for actuarial purposes of $6-7 BILLION and were already underfunded @ 6/30/07 by $5.1 BILLION.

Where are the "conservatives" on this debacle??
NO WHERE!
It showed up on the Seattle Times on-line for a couple hours weeks ago and was pulled down.

Questions--
1) Who are the Investment Board members, who appointed them and what are their qualifications?
I heard Joe Dear quit and ran away like a scared rabbit.
Is that true?
2) Why did they invest so much in risky Hedge Funds?
3) Why aren't they being held accountable?

Did you know that the TAXPAYERS are ultimately responsible?

Hey, I've been following the Budget for years.
The chickens have come home to roost.

I'm just at a complete loss why this Pension Fund issue isn't on the front page or on the front burner for any of you Olympia wonks.
Please explain............

Posted by: Mr. Cynical on March 2, 2009 05:45 PM
8. Throw the bums out~

Posted by: Michele on March 2, 2009 06:22 PM
9. #7 Spot on! Indeed...no investigative journalism on this one and it would undoubtedly rock the public to it's core. No wonder the PI is out of business and Times likely to follow.

Posted by: Duffman on March 2, 2009 06:28 PM
10. Dear old Joe Dear has gone to California, where he can turn that state's investments to gold, just as he's done here.

Posted by: Max Dad on March 2, 2009 09:38 PM
11. the tax tables have not changed for 2009, and are not anticipated to change.

The tax tables are changing for 2009. The porkulus bill stipulates the change must happen by 4/1/09.

Basically, instead of sending you a $400/$800 check in the mail, the government is letting you keep a little more each paycheck to spread that amount out.

Posted by: Palouse on March 3, 2009 08:02 AM
12. Thanks Palouse! Didn't have time to research, and I knew someone on here would have the info.

Posted by: katomar on March 3, 2009 08:21 AM
13. Thanks for the post, Eric.

With respect to the pension problem identified by Mr. Cynical, the simple answer for why little coverage is that the problem, while immense, is not urgent. There won't be a tax package to bolster pensions this year.

Posted by: Richard Davis on March 3, 2009 11:17 AM
14. If something isn't done about the Pension situation soon, the immense losses will eventually smother us.

More importantly Richard is WHY the Investment Board (which Joe Dear ran away from) not being held accountable for the IMMENSE LOSSES which were due to IMMENSE RISK-TAKING???
Help me out Richard.
Once the problem becomes insurmountable, all those responsible will be long gone.
Lucky them.
Unlucky taxpayers.

Posted by: Mr. Cynical on March 3, 2009 03:44 PM
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