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Editor's Column: This year’s legislative budget process in Olympia
Many people don’t understand the legislative process in Olympia and why it takes months to cut the budget when in private business, necessary budges cuts can be discussed over lunch and the requisite number of people laid off before 5 p.m.
Of course, our state is bigger than most businesses, but one would think the budget could be balanced in a few days: Wage freeze, benefit freeze, layoffs, whatever it takes, get it done and get out of town. But that’s not the process that Olympia uses to balance a budget. Here’s a 10-step look at how it will get done.
1. The governor addresses the state, barely suppressing tears as she describes her immoral budget that will kill people and generally destroy life as we know it.
2. The Legislature convenes, following months of private meetings in which legislators have wined and dined each other, but decided nothing.
3. Legislative leaders describe the coming apocalypse in terms of the number of people they’re being forced to kill, but they’re too timid to actually line them up and shoot them.
4. The Legislature breaks up into various committees in both the House and Senate sides: The Committee on Caterwauling, The Committee to Spread the Blame, the Committee to Concoct Alarmist Rhetoric, The Committee to End Education as We Know It As If That’s A Bad Thing, The Committee to Proclaim the End of Times, The Committee to Spend More Money by Making the Locals Do It, the Committee to Blame and Possibly Arrest the People for Voting Against More Taxes, etc., etc.
5. When the committees are done meeting, the dominant party, in this case the Democrats, meets in secret caucus to discuss how to continue to invest in their favorite money-wasting projects even if they have no money to waste. They look for money under the sofas, turn their pockets inside out, shake down the high school pages, send letters to President Obama (print us up some money!), and to China (send foreign aid to the poor!), but can’t find any money anywhere.
6. Trying to be helpful, the Republicans declare it’s time to stop unnecessary spending on everything except businesses and rich people.
7. House and Senate leaders solemnly announce their proposed budget, which sadly kills even more people than the governor’s.
8. Attorney General Rob McKenna has the governor and legislators arrested for conspiring to kill people.
9. Legislators find there’s not even enough money to bail themselves out of jail.
10. The public is safe at last.