Gregoire to blame for budget deficit | John Carlson

Is Washington running a surplus or a deficit? In last Saturday’s debate, Governor Christine Gregoire stated that Washington was running an $800 million dollar surplus, while other states were entangled in deficits.

Is Washington running a surplus or a deficit?

In last Saturday’s debate, Governor Christine Gregoire stated that Washington was running an $800 million dollar surplus, while other states were entangled in deficits.

Her opponent, Dino Rossi, claimed that Governor Gregoire had raised spending so much in four years that we are now facing a $3.2 billion dollar deficit.

Technically both answers are correct, but one matters more than the other.

The current state budget contains a reserve fund of about 2.5 percent, or $800 million, some of which is in a mandatory rainy-day fund that voters made a constitutional requirement last year. That’s not the problem.

The problem is what’s in front of us. In 2007, the Governor’s budget office forecast a $1 billion shortfall between how much the government expects to receive in the next budget cycle and the amount it expects to spend if it simply “carries forward” the current budget.

Early this year, that shortfall soared to $2.4 billion. The Governor pointed out that an earlier predicted shortfall didn’t happen. But by late spring the shortfall rose again, this time to $2.7 billion.

The trend was clear.

Last week, the Governor’s budget office predicted a new deficit: $3.2 billion. This is serious.

The Governor says that the people responsible for this mess are President George Bush and Rossi.

She blames President Bush for the condition of the economy. It’s slowing down on his watch, and he’s unpopular anyway, so why not blame him? But when our state’s economy was producing more money than expected a few years ago, the Governor avoided giving Bush any credit, even in passing.

Rossi gets blamed by the Governor because five years ago as a state senator he put together a bipartisan, no-new-taxes budget that was signed into law by then-Governor Gary Locke.

It was the first biennial budget after 9/11, and both Rossi and Locke agreed that taxes should not be raised. Governor Gregoire claims that it left her facing a $2.3 billion shortfall upon taking office.

Here, the Governor exaggerates.

The actual size of the shortfall from the Rossi-Locke budget was closer to half that, about $1.2 billion, which shrunk to about $600 million two months into her tenure. A pair of decisions from the State Supreme Court added another $500 million in expenses for the government, but they were handed down when Gregoire was already in office, and had nothing to do with the Rossi-Locke budget.

But let’s assume the Governor is correct. If she inherited a big deficit, then why on earth did she raise state spending 33 percent in just four years? She knew perfectly well that her budgets were growing faster than the economy’s ability to pay for them. Why didn’t she show more caution?

It’s a question a lot of people are asking about bankers, mortgage lenders and unemployed hedge fund managers.

Like them, the Governor bet that the value of housing and the pace of economic growth would keep rising, so she went on a spending binge unseen in this state in nearly 20 years. She ignored the first lesson of government finance: Don’t spend money you don’t expect to receive.

She could have filled the small budget hole she inherited. Instead, she dug a deeper one. Much deeper. And for that, she can blame no one but herself.

Starting next week, John Carlson moves to KOMO 1000 Newsradio, and will co-host “The Commentators” with Ken Schram, weekdays from 10 am to 2 pm.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@redmond-reporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.redmond-reporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in Opinion

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at thebrunells@msn.com.
Why should the threat to Taiwan concern us in WA? | Brunell

Unfortunately, what happens in Taiwan doesn’t just stay in Taiwan — it… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Election 2021: Closer look at King County races | Roegner

The race for Mayor of Seattle will dominate the regional media, but… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Questions surround vaccine exemptions for state workers | Roegner

With about 4,800 state employees in 24 agencies requesting vaccine exemptions, which… Continue reading

Dr. Jayendrina Singha Ray serves as Faculty of English at Highline College. Her research interests include postcolonial studies, spatial literary studies, British literature, and rhetoric and composition. Prior to teaching in the U.S., she worked as an editor with Routledge and taught English at colleges in India.
What the Afghan wants to say: Arezo’s journey to America | Guest column

In our little Zoom room, I hear my interviewee break into sobs.… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Can a Texas-style abortion law happen in Washington? | Roegner

If politicians really want to anger women voters, the easiest way is… Continue reading

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at thebrunells@msn.com.
Reasons to ban Gov. Jay Inslee’s natural gas ban | Brunell

Column: Switching from natural gas to electricity is complicated and will impact everyone.

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He recently retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at thebrunells@msn.com.
Vaccinations improve our health and employment numbers | Brunell

It is not surprising that COVID-19, which ravaged the world, was disastrous… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Firefighters vs. the governor’s vaccine mandate | Roegner

We all thought we were in this fight with the coronavirus together,… Continue reading

Providence employees look at anti-vaccine mandate protesters as they cross the street outside of Providence Regional Medical Center Everett on Aug. 18, 2021. Olivia Vanni/Sound Publishing
Editorial: A message to the unvaccinated and unmasked

We know you’re frustrated with mandates and advice, but consider our frustrations and, yes, our anger.

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Back to the classroom during abnormal times | Roegner

If it didn’t feel so normal, we might forget about the coronavirus… Continue reading

Robert Toomey, CFA/CFP, is Vice President of Research for S. R. Schill & Associates on Mercer Island.
What’s up with the real estate market? | Guest column

As we all know, the residential real estate market and prices have… Continue reading

9/11 Memorial in Cashmere, Washington. Photo courtesy of Greg Asimakoupoulos
Twenty years after tragedy brought us together | Guest column

Recently, I was reflecting on where I was and what I was… Continue reading