Editorial: The cuts are getting real

The informational Deputy Sheriff’s Guild demonstration in Coupeville Monday was a rare spectacle, as people seldom take to the streets in Island County. The smaller, counter-demonstation in the same area points to the controversy surrounding the cutting of any government jobs, including those involved in law enforcement. Some people worried that sparing a cop would hurt other important programs and the environment.

As the demonstrations show, two years into the “Great Recession,” the cuts at all levels of government are really starting to hurt. The many people laid off a year ago in the first round of cuts would beg to differ, but the fact is that the cutting is now into the bone. The demonstrating deputies and their supporters weren’t demanding more jobs or better benefits, they were simply trying to stop further cuts that would jeopardize public safety. Their message apparently got through, as the hard-pressed county commissioners found some more money for law enforcement.

The trauma of budget cutting in Island County will soon be played out on a much larger scale in Olympia, where the Legislature is facing its second year of huge deficits. The federal government bailed them out -- in part -- last year, but such largesse from Uncle Sam is unlikely in 2010, as his pockets are also empty.

There isn’t a lot of wasteful spending on the state level. Government workers are simply fulfilling mandates to protect the public, help the sick and elderly, enforce environmental laws and, most costly of all, educate our young.

The cutting in Olympia is likely to get ugly and make the little dispute in Coupeville look quaint by comparison. Teachers, police officers, judicial workers, scientists and others are at risk. They’re all doing important work, but something will have to give. We don’t envy our legislators who are tasked with making the hard decisions.

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