I listened to Governor Christine Gregoire's "State of the State" speech today and was struck by how much she sounds like her supposed political nemesis, Tim Eyman.
She led off with proposals for public employee pension cuts and the adoption of "user pays" fees for many state services—both of them ideas that please Eyman and the anti-tax right. Then, reflecting on the current mood of the public, Gregoire said:
I think voters are out ahead in understanding the need for change.
What? In November, voters did just about everything Gregoire asked them not to do:
They passed Eyman's Initiative 1053, requiring a two-thirds majority in the state legislature for any revenue increases. They torpedoed her new soda tax, costing the state $34 million this year. They declined to pass Bill Gates Sr.'s high earners income tax initiative, which could have brought in the billions Gregoire now needs for education and health care funding (and been the kind of "landmark change" that Gregoire said today is needed to "transform Washington State government to better serve our people for the next 80 years").
So how is it that voters are now, in her estimation, "out ahead" of her and other politicians in seeing what needs to be done to deal with Washington's $4.6 billion budget shortfall?
In fact, what voters have done is tie Gregoire's hands so that she has to propose an almost all cuts budget this session—something that just the other day was making her cry. Again: Why is she now praising this kind of thinking?
If Gregoire were planning to run for re-election in 2012, it might make sense to bow to the will of the voters, call them "out ahead" of her, and do exactly what they seem to want. But since, by all accounts, this will be her last term, why not give her fellow Democrats some cover for trying to raise a little new revenue here and there this sessnio? Why not push back against Eyman economics and make the case that some new revenue—some new revenue—is part of the route toward making this state "better serve our people"?
"There are those who say we won’t be courageous," Gregoire said in her speech. For a lot of the people who say that, this kind of speech is why.