With the state facing a $1.1 billion revenue shortfall between now and June, and yet another $5.7 billion gap looming in next biennial budget, the ax continues to fall heavily on the poor, the sick and the young, with Basic Health, children's health insurance, Disability Lifeline, college financial aid, K-4 enhancement and all-day kindergarten funds all likely to be slashed or eliminated.
They won't necessarily come right out and say it, but a lot of Republicans look at this budget disaster as a good thing... an opportunity to "right-size" state and local government via fiscal crisis in a way they could never achieve at the ballot box... whatever the cost in human suffering. I mean, isn't this exactly what the Seattle Times is talking about when it lumps its focus on "resetting government to the world's new economic realities" under the brand "Reset 2010"...?
Well, you know what? It's past time for Democrats in Olympia to get the message, and realize that in this current economic and political climate, we can no longer afford to fully support our welfare state. And since a disproportionate amount of welfare in our state goes to rock ribbed Republican counties, that's where a disproportionate amount of the cuts should come.
And the first place to start? Eliminate school levy equalization.
Granted, the bleeding-heart, tax-and-spend liberal in me fully understands that levy equalization is a worthwhile program, granting poorer, mostly rural school districts a somewhat more equal funding footing with wealthier urban and suburban districts. But, at a cost of $165 million a year, that's the sort of bleeding heart, I'm constantly told, that our state simply can no longer afford.
Of course, without this redistribution of wealth from our children to theirs, many of these property-poor districts, particularly the smaller ones, simply will not be able to survive, forcing dozens our state's 295 districts to close and consolidate for the sake of efficiency, resulting in a loss of local control, and in some cases, considerably longer school bus commutes.
But again, isn't that exactly what the Seattle Times is talking about when it argues for "resetting government to the world's new economic realities"...?
The reality is, the economic divide in Washington state largely tracks the political one: rural vs. urban. And since it's rural Republicans who largely oppose all but the most minimal government services (at least rhetorically) and the taxes that support them, given the current budget crisis, it's time for urban Democrats to give the opposition what they claim they want.
Yes, that will cause a lot of pain and disruption in the rural communities that will inevitably lose their local school districts, and in some cases even their local schools. But Democrats in Olympia can simply no longer afford—either fiscally or politically—to continue fighting to subsidize the inefficient and unsustainable local governments of the rural communities who most vehemently rail against subsidizing inefficient and unsustainable government.
And if that's an economic reality these communities cannot accept, then perhaps they might want to start rethinking their politics?