View from the Eastside | Offering our help to the governor

Craig Groshart
View from the Eastside

Chris Gregoire was re-elected governor on Nov. 4, but from the way she’s talking, you’d think her opponent, Dino Rossi, won the election.

Chalk it up to the lousy economy and a looming state deficit.

Gregoire submits her budget to the Legislature today, just after she receives the final revenue forecast that will tell her — and us — how much money she has or doesn’t have to play with. The number being bandied about lately is that the state faces a deficit of $3.2 billion. Maybe she’ll get lucky today and it will be less.

But it won’t be that much less.

So, the governor already is asking the public — remember, that’s you — for help. On a Web page (www.governor.wa.gov), there is a link to a place where you can tell her how the state can save money and/or better manage what it has. I am sure she has already heard the suggestion to cut her own salary. Fixing the budget is going to be a little harder than that.

To her credit, Gregoire already has begun some steps:

She is directed agencies to save energy and freeze hiring, equipment purchases, out-of-state travel and personal service contracts.

Some agencies are considering a four-day work week.

Some across-the-board cuts and other budget-savings measures are already in place.

She has also engaged in what is called the “Priorities of Government” process. That is a strategic framework for investment decisions, such as:

What do citizens expect from government?

What strategies are most effective in achieving those results?

How should government prioritize spending to buy the activities that are most critical to implementing these strategies?

How will progress be measured?

Gregoire’s effort increasingly looks like it is coming from a Republican, specifically taking a look at government functions and programs that might be better handled in the private sector or by nonprofits. That has been the GOP mantra for years.

All of this will be needed to balance the budget, especially since Gregoire has said that she will do this without raising taxes.

It is hard to balance a budget in a down economy. Some programs likely will be reduced — or even cut completely — to get the job done.

Gregoire’s right to ask the public for help. She’s going to need it.

Craig Groshart is the editor of the Bellevue Reporter, a sister publication of the Mercer Island Reporter.

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