By Rep. Barbara Bailey
As families, individuals and employers attempt to get by in these tough times, the headlines from Olympia on the state budget problem are disappointing. However, the news could improve if state lawmakers could find ways to bolster the economy and understand that if taxes are raised in a fragile economy, it would slow job recovery.
The multi-billion dollar question is, “What can lawmakers do to turn the budget around and ensure economic prosperity?” The answer is to demand what we have been seriously lacking: leadership to reform how state government operates.
When hindsight is coupled with common sense, we see past actions have led to budget failure. In good economic times, state government became too large and expensive. This is unsustainable. In fact, the state treasurer recently indicated our state may be out of cash by September, creating a California-type situation. We must get our state fiscal house in order now and pass a budget that will not harm our economy.
The Legislature has the opportunity, and ability, to focus on the core priorities of state government. By doing so, it could develop a blueprint for not only budget, but economic, success. To not reform government now would be irresponsible.
The three core priorities of state government should be: ensuring public safety; providing for a superior basic education system our children can rely on; and caring for our most vulnerable citizens who are not able to care for themselves. When our state focuses on running insurance companies, liquor stores and vast technological and informational services, it takes resources away from real priorities.
Learning from the past, it is also evident a strong economy helps our budget situation. When people are working, they are putting more money into the economy and using fewer state services. This is a win for the people, and a win for the state. Under this scenario, it could also lead to a lighter tax burden on families and employers. It would also restore the proper role of the state: to enable independence, not dependence.
When it comes to creating jobs, the focus should not be on jobs that are reliant on tax dollars to create and sustain them. Tax dollars, whether from federal bailouts or other sources, come from your wallet. We need private-sector jobs. Unfortunately, as government has grown, private-sector jobs have been disappearing. This is illustrated by the fact that from February 2008 to October 2009, more than 8,200 government jobs have been added in our state, while 170,400 private-sector jobs have been lost.
The best way to create private-sector jobs is to help employers. I am supporting a plan that offers employers regulatory relief, health care reform and low-cost energy. It would assist all sectors of our economy — from small businesses to the Boeing Co. — and build an economic foundation for the future. I welcome you to visit my Web site at houserepublicans.wa.gov/bailey to learn more.
In contrast, the majority party is proposing a public-works bond proposal that mirrors the federal Works Progress Administration projects from the Great Depression era. It is merely a wish for more jobs, without a mechanism to pay for more government spending. This is a recipe for uncertainty and tax increases. It also reveals a belief that government can spend itself into economic prosperity.
While the challenges at hand are serious, our state must use these tough times as an opportunity to drive real reform in state government and build an economic foundation. Please stay tuned to what is happening in our state government and let your voice be heard in the legislative process.
State Rep. Barbara Bailey (R-Oak Harbor) represents the 10th Legislative District and is assistant ranking member on the House Ways and Means Committee. She can be contacted at email@example.com or (360) 786-7914.