Defund and Cripple Government!

Local and state Republican/Libertarians, just like their national version, pursue Grover Norquist‘s goal: “I’m not in favor of abolishing the government. I just want to shrink it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.” They profess that goal rhetorically by asserting “I’m against taxes!”, regardless of the circumstances and regardless of the tax. 

Every viable “Prefers Republican” candidate running in the primary election for the office of governor of the State of Washington insists there will be no tax increases. [There are 35 challengers on the ballot, but only five are actively campaigning and have raised significant sums. Joshua D. Freed ($1,422,309.99), Loren D. Culp ($961,653.92), Tim D. Eyman ($437,774.67), Dr. Raul Garcia ($255,476.61), and Phillip Fortunato ($218,707.64).]

If one promises no tax increase of any kind, what does that mean? Every state faces a budget shortfall as a result of a drop in tax collections secondary decreased economic activity due to Covid-19. States, unlike the federal government, have to balance their budgets. If there can be no increase in revenue the result is simple: spending must be slashed. None of these “Prefers Republican” candidates is saying where this slashing will occur. Cut funding for the North-South Spokane freeway? Cut spending on education? (Education is roughly half the budget, and schools are already strained in trying to deal with the pandemic.) Cut spending for Medicaid? Nursing homes? Early learning? Foster care? (Raises for 5600 state employees have already been cancelled by Governor Inslee.) 

So what would these “Prefers Republican” gubernatorial candidates face were they to be elected governor? 

According to Jim Camden, writing in the Spokesman about the primary candidates for governor, Washington State “…faces a budget with a yawning gap of about $8 billion between what the state was planning to spend over the next three years and the amount of money it can expect to come in because of economic slowdown.” Eight billion is “a lot of money,” but it is a meaningless number without context. (Note that the eight billion is over “the next three years,” making the number even more incomprehensible.) The annual Washington State budget is around 27 billion, about half of which goes to education. Eight billion, even made annual by dividing by 3 (=2.7 billion), is still a big number, 10% of the annual budget. (For a deeper look at the complexity of the biennial budget see the P.S. below.)
Tim D. Eyman has made his name fielding anti-tax initiatives in Washington state, carrying the Norquist “Shrink Government!” banner by whittling away tax revenues, with nary a mention of how he would reduce spending to balance the cuts. 

Sue Lani Madsen inadvertently alerted us to the best funded of the “Prefers Republican” candidates, Joshua Freed, in her rambling, name-dropping column on Thursday, July 23, promoting signatures for I-1114. I-1114 is the deceptively named “Emergency Powers Act”. It would hamstring the governor’s ability to lead in an emergency by limiting the effect of proclamations to 14 days–unless extended by a vote of the legislature. (Note: The WA legislature that is “in session” only 165 days in each two year period. Grover Norquist, the Republican/Libertarian operative in favor drowning government in the bathtub, would smile.) Freed is promoting “Restore Washington,” the group pushing this slap at Governor Inslee’s leadership in the pandemic crisis. This is the same bunch whose prior effort was I-1648, a tax-overturning initiative that failed to gather enough signatures. Their original intent is memorialized in their web address:   

Loren Culp, police chief of Republic, WA, famous for publicly refusing to enforce I-1639, doesn’t even acknowledge there exists a state revenue shortfall that he would have to face as governor. According to his website “Washington DOES NOT have a revenue problem.” So there!

Dr. Raul Garcia, a Yakima-based emergency room physician, simply states “…we cannot raise taxes in an economic crisis,..” He also fails to acknowledge the looming shortfall. To read Dr. Garcia’s statement about the handling of the coronavirus in Washington State on his website is to recognize his medical education did not include a course in epidemiology. 

Not one of these Republican/Libertarian candidates comes equipped with a reality-based understanding of the issues the state government faces. All are wedded to a credo that prevents them from dealing with the issues. All refuse to say where they would cut. Keep them out of government.

And while you’re at it, if you live in LD4, (Spokane Valley north to Mt. Spokane) vote for the accountant, Lance Gurel, for LD4 representative not the real estate agent or the conspiracy theorist. We need people who understand numbers and aren’t constrained by Norquistian “drown-it-in-the-bathtub” ideology.

Keep to the high ground,

P.S. The state budget is not easy to get one’s head around. I’ve copied below in yellow the best explanation I could find. Even with this explanation the numbers don’t completely add up, but they’re pretty close. Here’s another look at some of the complexity the governor and the legislators will face when they reassemble in Olympia: State revenue projection for 2019–21 lowered by nearly $4.5 billion.

The total two year budget includes new revenue projections totaling $47.8 billion. From the release:

Total Near General Fund revenues are now projected at about $47.8 billion for the current two-year state budget cycle, which began July 1, 2019. The dramatic decline in projected revenues would leave the state with a net $1.4 billion shortfall — including reserves [3.5 billion–I think this is the “rainy day fund”] — at the end of biennium. [the “biennium,” the two year budget, ends June 30, 2021]

However, the scope of the shortfall may be worse than those numbers state.

For perspective, the legislature adopted a supplemental budget in the 2020 session of about $53.5 billion. The projected two-year revenues of $47.8 billion creates a shortfall of $5.7 billion over adopted expenditures. This does not account for utilization of reserves, as the OFM [Office of Financial Management] statement does. 

Since the two-year shortfall will now need to be made up in one year, since the revenue and expenditures of FY ’20 are now mostly booked, this leaves the estimated $5.7 billion deficit of the two-year budget to be borne mostly in the single year of FY ’21.

That creates a $5.7bn shortfall to be made up from expenditures of about $27 billion, or a single year deficit of around 20% – again, not counting the one-time use of reserves.