EDITOR'S COLUMN: Governor has not yet begun to cut

Teeth were gnashed, hands were wrung and brows were furrowed when Gov. Gary Locke announced his no-new-taxes budget for the next biennium. Coming from a Democrat, this was a shock to state employees, contractors and other hangers-on. Even the Republicans were left speechless. But the governor got Tim Eyman’s message: People don’t want more taxes. The governor, in fact, is parroting Eyman so well that he could start a new career playing Charlie McCarthy to Eyman’s Edgar Bergen. And to think that a few years ago, we all thought Eyman was the dummy.

The governor proposes freezing teacher salaries, slashing health care spending and closing state parks. People thought this was tough, but Eyman now is proposing I-800, destined to become known as the 800-pound gorilla initiative, that would require a two-thirds majority before any elected body can raise taxes. The lessons of history show people will vote for it, and Locke’s draconian budget proposal of 2003 will look like a walk in the closed park in hindsight.

The governor and Legislature should wise up and realize that the citizens of this great state want real reform, not window dressing. But since they work in a marble box, they can’t think outside it. So here are some modest proposals that will allow the state to finally live within its means.

l Three strikes and you’re dead. This criminal justice program will replace the expensive “three strikes and you’re out” initiative which reduced crime, but ballooned our prison population. Now, people who commit a third crime can take their choice — firing squad using bullets donated by the NRA, or a one-way bus ticket to Canada which refuses to extradite criminals facing the death penalty. Chances are, Canada will be housing all our criminals and we won’t have to shoot a single person. Savings: Billions and billions.

l Take two aspirin. Our state’s expensive health care system will be replaced by a toll-free health care hotline where Gov. Locke’s voice will tell each caller, “Take two aspirin and call us next biennium.” Savings: Billions and billions.

l Off-road transportation: We don’t need more roads, just open up the meridians and grassy right-of-ways to our millions of four-wheel drive vehicles that aren’t used as intended. Vehicles named Explorer, Safari, Excursion, Scout, Bronco and the like are banned from the asphalt. Savings: Billions and billions.

l Senior warehouses. Needy seniors now confined to expensive nursing homes can literally be warehoused for far less money. Use some of Boeing’s empty buildings and turn their unused pallets into beds. Stack up the seniors and feed and water them automatically, like broiler chickens. When relatives visit, bring them to the comfortably-appointed visitors’ room. Nurses can easily be retrained to drive fork lifts. Savings: Billions and billions.

l Cut government. To heck with cutting government waste, just cut government -- entirely. Sell all its assets, burn all the rules and regulations, and let people live as nature and Tim Eyman intended, running amok in their unlicensed SUV’s.

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