As Eli reported earlier, Governor Chris Gregoire has released another one of those worst case scenario budget proposals today, in which old people are ripped from their dialysis machines, preemies shiver to death on the floor as their incubators are stolen out of neonatal wards, and our most disadvantaged students are systematically slaughtered to make school lunch taco filling for their surviving classmates.
Or something like that. Another $545 million from education, the elimination of both Basic Health and Disability Lifeline, hundreds of millions more cut from programs serving Washington's neediest citizens... it ain't pretty. Eli calls it "kabuki theater," but honestly, without some significant new revenue thrown into the mix, the supplemental budget that comes out of the coming special session will look different, but no less austere.
Which sadly brings me to my main observation coming out of both today's announcement and the past few years of perpetual budget crisis—Gov. Gregoire's complete and utter lack of leadership on the most pressing issue of the day: Revenue.
Sure, Gov. Gregoire can complain all she wants about "the reckless behavior on Wall Street," and "a Congress that simply can’t get the job done," and all of that's true. She didn't create this crisis. And she didn't do anything to prolong it. The revenue collapse that has crippled our government's ability to address our most basic needs was not her fault. But her failure to show an ounce of leadership on the one and only thing capable of mitigating it, is.
When asked at today's press conference introducing her all-cuts budget proposal about what revenue options she might be thinking about, Gov. Gregoire was blunt. "I'm not thinking," Gregoire told reporters. "I have not thought about revenue."
Incredulous, reporters pushed on, but Gov. Gregoire held her ground: "I know you want me to talk about revenue. I can't. I can't, because I haven't done the work."
Okay. I'll take her at her word. And therein lies the problem, for nobody in Olympia has been willing to do the hard work necessary to lead our state toward the revenue solutions necessary to address even a fraction of our structural deficit, let alone the recession induced shortfalls.
I know, I know... voters don't want new taxes. They've told us that repeatedly. But giving voters what they want isn't leadership, it's following. What we've desperately needed in Olympia these past few years is not just a governor who shares our values and feels our pain, but one who is willing and able to provide the leadership necessary to move public opinion from where it is, to where it needs to be.
I'm not saying that's easy, or even possible. I just would've liked to see the governor try.