Lawmakers got some good news on Wednesday as state revenue was projected to be $40 million higher than anticipated over the next two years.
While that’s something to cheer about, the Legislature still faces a $1.3 billion shortfall. Even worse, the state Supreme Court is requiring the state to increase education funding by $500 million to $1.7 billion over the next two years.
That means even with an additional $40 million, there won’t be enough money to meet everyone’s wants and needs. And raising taxes won’t be an option, either. Republicans are against it and Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, campaigned saying he wouldn’t approve tax increases.
Bottom line: it’s going to take a bunch of cuts — and then more cuts — to balance the budget.
As the Legislature moves forward in this final month of the regular session, it needs to see its task as more than a numbers game. In reality, lawmakers face a moral decision.
Where should the state’s limited resources go?
We think lawmakers need to look first to the poor and medically fragile. Without state help, they truly have nothing.
The need stretches across our state. The poor are students, the unemployed, the disabled and the old. Even without tolls, they cannot afford to go to the dentist, ride the bus to work or feed their families.
More money for higher education also is a critical need. The increases in tuition at our state colleges and universities have priced many — even in the middle class — out of a chance to further their education. Ignoring this will impact our state far into the future.
Any money for transportation projects will likely not come from this windfall. And it is too little to eliminate or reduce tolling fees.
We know state workers have concerns over wages and benefits. Believe us when we say that private industry has felt their pain. But given low funds and high needs, lawmakers must first help those who can’t help themselves.