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Bailey: Cut spending or face the consequences

Rep. Barbara Bailey speaks with nearly two-dozen islanders at Miriams Espresso Cafe Thursday morning.  - Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times
Rep. Barbara Bailey speaks with nearly two-dozen islanders at Miriams Espresso Cafe Thursday morning.
— image credit: Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times

Nearly two-dozen Whidbey Islanders met with State Rep. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor, for a coffee date Thursday morning in Coupeville.

The group commandeered a corner of Miriams Espresso Cafe for an hour-long discussion on the budget, government spending, deficits, septic systems and worker’s compensation insurance, among other topics.

“The overpowering, overshadowing item at the state this time was the budget,” Bailey said, referring to the recent legislative session.

A $9 billion gap in the 2009-2010 biennium was filled by reductions in spending, $4 billion in one-time federal funds, and by shuffling around expenditures, Bailey said.

At the start of this year’s session, the Legislature was faced with a $2.8 billion shortfall. Roughly $798 million in new tax increases, $633 million in anticipated federal funds and $660 million in spending reduction, among other actions were implemented to help close the gap, she said.

“The real problem arose in Olympia because there wasn’t an agreement between the parties,” she said, then listed off several newly taxed items such as bottled water, soda and candy. “There are about 3,300 different products that are going to be taxed.”

“Rather than just doing a straight sales tax increase and just be done with it, they did this,” Bailey said.

Bailey said now is the time to rein in spending and reform the budget process or face a dire future.

“For some time the state has not been living within its means. There’s a $10 billion projected gap in the next biennium,” she warned. “Our economy is going to recover much slower than we thought.”

Local builder Ted Clifton brought initiative 1082 to the discussion. The initiative would reform the state’s workers’ compensation system.

“Right now we have a monopoly in this state,” Clifton said of Washington’s handle on worker’s comp insurance. “I do hope we can bring competition into this state.”

Gary Wray of Coupeville called the current system a “slush fund.”

“Washington is one of the four states that have a monopoly on state industry,” he said. “Most of the rest of the country has figured that out.”

Wray also pressed Bailey not to forget the septic system bill, which died just before it left the original house of origin, according to Bailey’s administrative assistant Adam McCrow. Bailey’s bill would ease some regulations in the new mandatory septic inspection law.

Bailey vowed to try to pass the bill again and urged the group to stay engaged.

“Don’t quit being involved,” Bailey told the small crowd. “We are government together.”

Bailey, swept through La Conner, Stanwood, Oak Harbor, Coupeville, Freeland and Langley during her two-day, whirl-wind tour. She’s up for election in the fall, as is Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton. The filing period for office is June 7 through 11.

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