Opinion

Editorial

"Legislature faces an impossible taskThe Washington State Legislature gathered in Olympia Monday for what promises to be one of the most tumultuous sessions in history, thanks to Initiative 695.The 10th District’s contingent, Reps. Dave Anderson and Kelly Barlean and Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, and the rest will be struggling with a $750 million annual hole in the state budget. That’s roughly how much the motor vehicle excise tax raked in, until I-695 cut it back to a measly $30 per vehicle.We do not envy the legislators their task. Gov. Gary Locke has already stated that he will fight to maintain education funding at its present level. If he prevails, that means the rest of the budget will be susceptible to major cuts.The theory of cutting state spending sound attractive, but when put into practice it hurts. Whidbey Islanders need good roads, good transit, and good ferry service, and we want our natural resources protected and enhanced -- keep our state parks and increase our salmon runs, for example, and don’t cut and sell the trees on state-owned lands.We also want education funding to remain the same or even grow, and we don’t want any of our poor people to go without shelter and basic medical care.Besides all that, most of us probably want a property tax break, and we’re unlikely to approve any major change in how taxes are collected. Increasing the sales tax or gas tax may well be voted down, and instigating a state income tax has no chance at all. Any such proposals would require a public vote, thanks to I-695.All our legislators have to do is maintain or improve existing services by spending far less money than was available last year. Can this be done? A cow could just as likely jump over the moon. It’s simply impossible.The Legislature will simply have to prioritize spending to fund the most essential service, and leave any “extras” such as parks, ferries and road improvements up to the voters. After all, the voters gave them little choice when they approved I-695."

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