The Seattle Times editorial board fears for the day when state parks and wilderness lands will be padlocked due to lack of funds, and so in the face of ongoing budget cuts and uncertainty, it has boldly come out in support of requiring a $30 annual (or $10 day) pass to use state recreation areas:
This is tricky. People will be sensitive to charges for privileges that were once free. But smaller government means more user fees. The Legislature should approve the plan.
Honestly... what the fuck?
"Smaller government" means larger K-12 class sizes and fewer enrichment programs. "Smaller government" means making our four-year universities less affordable, less accessible and lower quality. "Smaller government" means kicking 40,000 children off the health care rolls, slashing ferry service and reducing prison staffing to the point where guards are left dangerously one-on-one with sociopathic lifers. Hell... padlocking state parks, or even selling them off, now that would make for "smaller government."
But user fees? They don't on their own make government any "smaller," they just shift the costs of operating the government we already have. In fact, not only wouldn't state Sen. Kevin Ranker's proposed "Discovery Pass", and the $61 million it would raise, make state government any smaller, it would by necessity make government BIGGER, requiring expanded bureaucracies and FTEs to create and sell the passes, to patrol the wilderness areas and ticket the violators, and to collect the $99 fine from scofflaws. A fiscal note has yet to be attached to the bill, but no doubt implementation and enforcement will end up costing the state millions.
"The best way for Washington to dig out of its current budget crisis," the Seattle Times' editors pontificate, "is to do it together as one state solving problems collectively." So how exactly does this "one state" philosophy lead the same editorial board to come down on the side of State Parks Director Don Hock, when he argues that the "fairest" model for funding wilderness lands is "those who use parks pay for them"...?
This latest editorial's glaring flaw is that it insists on conflating smaller government with lower taxes, when as the Discovery Pass proposal clearly illustrates, one doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the other. But the larger problem for the Seattle Times' editors is that they have become so invested in their economic assumptions, that they no longer bother themselves with things as mundane as mere math.
And that, I suppose, is how you end up with "smaller government means more user fees" as the non sequitur thesis of an unsigned editorial in our state's alleged paper of record.