Following in the footsteps of the popular show, MythBusters, the Seattle Times ran an article today exploding the popular notion that the Washington State Constitution requires the adoption of a balanced budget.
I’m not sure which is more disturbing: the fact that our legislators were ignorant of the requirements of our Constitution for so basic a function as budgeting or the fact that intrepid Seattle Times Reporter, Andrew Garber, has now clued them in. Thanks, Andrew. Let me know how I can return the favor.
Washington residents should be very afraid. Governor Christine Gregoire and the Democrat-controlled legislature managed to spend us into a 5 billion dollar deficit when the State was cash-rich. Now we can only wonder whether or not they’ll show some fiscal responsibility in deciding whether or not to borrow to cover operating expenses.
They’ve certainly given us no reason for hope and this quote from House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler (D-Hoquiam) who said, “Oh my God, don’t tell my members,” is not very reassuring. Gosh, Lynn, what’s the problem with your members knowing the actual contents of our State Constitution? You’re surely not worried about what they’ll do with that knowledge, are you?
The article goes on to say:
As for borrowing money, the Washington Constitution does limit how much debt the Legislature can take on. The cap is set at 9 percent of the average amount of tax money the state received during the past three years. [Retiring State Treasurer Mike] Murphy said the state is pretty close to that limit. But there are ways the Legislature can adjust the calculation used to set the cap, creating more room for borrowing money.
I’m not a genius when it comes to budgeting, but even I can tell something’s not right when you can “adjust the calculation used to set the cap, creating more room for borrowing money.”
Washington State Legislators should pledge right now to forgo borrowing to cover operating expenses. To quote Murphy again, even though our Constitution “does not prohibit you from doing something that’s not too bright,” one would hope that common sense would.