John Carlson | 2009 reflections, 2010 predictions

At about this time last year I wrote that “Predictions can be perilous,” and went on to make four of them, anyway, about what I thought would happen in 2009.

Let’s see what happened.

2009 prediction: The University of Washington football team would win five games.

Coming off an 0-12 season, anything would have been an improvement in 2009. But new coach Steve Sarkisian brought a genuine sense of excitement to the team, resulting in a 5-7 season. By year’s end, the Dawgs were one of the best teams in the Pac-10.

2010 prediction: The Huskies go 9 – 3, make the top 20, and Jake Locker — barring injury — bags the Heisman trophy.

2009 prediction: The Democrats will fight … the Democrats in Olympia.

At this time last year, the Democrats were still celebrating the historic victory of Barack Obama, the triumphant re-election of Governor Gregoire, and the huge Democratic majorities in both Congress and the legislature, which made my prediction seem wildly contrarian. But I was focused on the growing state budget deficit that had grown from $2 billion in October, to $5 billion in January, and would eventually exceed $8 billion (this, out of a $31 billion budget).

Washington, D.C. can run deficits but Olympia cannot, which means tension between liberal, union-driven liberals and more moderate Democrats who wanted to hold down taxes to prevent further job losses in their districts. A multi-billion dollar bailout from the federal stimulus program essentially paid down more than half the deficit, keeping the political blood flow to a minimum.

But no sooner was the budget patched together than the deficit grew again as the economy worsened. The state budget is currently at about $2.5 billion, or about 8 percent of the budget. What to do? Gov. Gregoire says we should raise taxes, which she consistently promised not to do. That won’t be easy because it will anger taxpayers in an election year, and probably provoke a referendum or initiative to repeal it.

2010 prediction: Olympia Democrats will bow to the unions, pass a budget with higher taxes, and watch their majorities in both houses be cut by three-fourths next November.

2009 prediction: Unemployment in Washington State will hit 7 percent.

Believe it or not, when I made that prediction, the unemployment rate was 6.5 percent, so I was predicting that things would continue to get worse. Talk about an understatement. It actually crested above 10 percent, a 25-year high.

2010 prediction: The unemployment will lower to 8.5 percent. Better but still bad, and nearly twice what it was three years ago.

2009 prediction: Neither Ron Sims nor Greg Nickels will be holding their jobs a year from now.

I predicted that Ron Sims, who was planning a re-election bid last January, “is restless” and that Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels had been around “one term too many.” Seattle voters agreed and didn’t even wait for the general. Had Sims run again, he would have suffered Nickels’ fate and deservedly so. But the Obama administration came to his rescue last spring, allowing Ron to fall upwards.

Here is one final 2010 prediction: The Seattle Mariners, who lost more than 100 games in 2008, will win 95 games and make the play-offs in 2010.

John Carlson co-hosts The Commentators with Ken Schram on KOMO 1000. E-mail Carlson at