Make government smaller. That's the Republican agenda.

It's no surprise, really. Republicans are pretty upfront about their desire for smaller government. But what a lot of people (Democratic legislators included, apparently) don't seem to realize is that there's nothing deeper to it than that.

Smaller government is both the ends and the means of the Republican agenda. They don't really care how they make government smaller or in what order, and they feel no need to justify their aims. That government should be smaller is a given in Republican circles. It is the fundamental tenet that defines their entire agenda.

And here in Washington state, Republicans are achieving their agenda quite spectacularly. By default:

  • WA State Budget & Policy Center

Washington is the most sales tax reliant state in the nation, with the general sales tax accounting for 45 percent of state revenue, over 58 percent when you throw in taxes on gasoline, alcohol, and tobacco. Yet as the Washington State Budget & Policy Center chart above shows, taxable retail sales is steadily shrinking as a percentage of personal income, and thus as a percentage of the state economy as a whole.

That means state tax revenue is steadily shrinking as a percentage of the state economy, and with it, our ability to provide public services at constant levels.

Republicans and their surrogates on the editorial boards can howl all they want about out-of-control spending, but it's a lie. State government has been shrinking for years by every reasonable metric: percent of income, FTEs per thousand, revenue and expenditures in per capita real dollars, etc. Yes, our budgets are unsustainable, but it's not spending that's the culprit—it's our unsustainable tax structure.

And that means that regardless of who we elect to office and which initiatives we approve at the polls, we will continue to get the Republicans' small government agenda by default... unless and until we manage to implement substantive and sustainable tax reform.