Friday, November 20, 2009

Thoughts on the Budget Forecast

2012 has come early! Repent! REPENT!

Last year we had a $9,000,000,000 hole that hurt, but at least we had a lot of options for what we could cut, and we had stimulus money that made things better than they would have been otherwise.

This year we have a $2.5 billion dollar hole, and we’re screwed hardcore.

The thought being expressed by some now is that we have to look at revenue possibilities—a tax increase—because the cuts that are coming are just too much for the system to handle. With regards to the schools I’m 99% sure that levy equalization is dead when the Governor releases her budget next month (she just as much said so on Weekday this morning), because that’s one of the few areas in the education budget that can be cut and because the schools that are impacted by levy equalization are mainly in legislative districts represented by Republicans. Want to put pressure on a Joel Kretz or Joseph Zarelli? Cut their schools.

That said, I don’t think the political will is going to be there for any democrat to vote for a tax increase. I often think about John Driscoll in the 6th LD, who won his 2008 election against John Ahern by about 100 votes. The intent behind voting to raise taxes doesn’t really matter when it’s drilled down to a soundbite: “JOHN DRISCOLL VOTED TO RAISE YOUR TAXES!” Even someone like Sen. Lisa Brown out of the 3rd LD in Spokane isn’t immune to that pressure, because if she does have her eyes on running for Governor in 2012, does she want the “She voted to raise your taxes during the Great Recession!” tag following her around, even if it is a principled vote?

It gets worse. The community colleges are in line to get pillaged, which is ridiculous right now in a time when unemployment is 10% and the CCs are needed now more than ever. The University system already has choked down 30% tuition hikes; how much more can we ask of the college kids? If we believe that there’s an abiding interest in having a system of public universities in the state, then what level of support do we need to show?

I’m really not looking forward to going to my members and telling them about the hit they’re going to take. It’s going to be brutal.

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