Legislators share bleak outlook on state budget

Sen Mary Margaret Haugen discusses issues with Island County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson Thursday night in Coupeville. To Haugen
Sen Mary Margaret Haugen discusses issues with Island County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson Thursday night in Coupeville. To Haugen's right, Reps. Barbara Bailey and Norma Smith talk to constituents.
— image credit: Liz Burlingame / Whidbey News-Times

Tenth District state legislators gave a no-nonsense talk on the economy Friday in Coupeville, addressing issues from stimulus projects to small-scale farms.

They were candid about the tough decisions and cuts ahead as the state faces another big budget deficit.

State Rep. Barbara Bailey criticized the state’s spending, and said she can’t see a solution on the horizon to take care of the deficit.

“You see a lot of things the budget could do and a lot of things it didn’t do,” she said. “We have robbed the pension system, to where we owe the system $8 billion. This will fall heavy on local government and school districts.”

The crowd at the Coupeville Rec Hall quietly listened as Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen and Rep. Norma Smith gave similar accounts.

“It’s a tough time for elected officials because the economy isn’t turning around as fast as we hoped,” Haugen said.

Gov. Chris Gregoire will make painful cuts across the board, Haugen said, in areas such as state payroll and programs that aren’t deemed very effective.

“It’s better to cut it completely than to bleed it to death,” Haugen said.

She added that legislators are taking furloughs and that there are 10,000 fewer state employees this year.

As for small farmers, the legislators each spoke of policies they supported to help their business. Several heads nodded in approval as Bailey spoke of a new proposal to hold regulatory agencies more accountable.

“There’s a proposal for a 90-day process. If there is no resolution from an agency in 90 days, you win,” Bailey said.

In the next 60-day session starting in January, Haugen says her goal is to make sure there is no harm done to education.

Meanwhile, Bailey, who works with the Tourism Commission, is working to ensure that budget stays whole.

“This is not the time to draw back on tourism investment because of the 2010 Olympics,” she said.

Smith’s focus is to put legislation together to help small business and create more jobs.

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