A Fresh Start, Politically Speaking

With the primary nearly upon us, I’m priming the pump here on an issues-oriented discussion that hopefully will move beyond the discussion of candidates’ service records in the Richards-Seaquist race.

My questions are somewhat general and simplistic, but hopefully they’ll get the conversation going. Candidates, readers, jump in.

Questions:
Think of the state budget process as an emergency room triage situation in which certain programs and functions of the state must receive care at the expense of others. What methods do you (incumbents) or would you (challengers) employ to set priorities among the following state programs: health, human services, transportation, education, environmental preservation, law and justice, parks and recreation, and basic administrative functions (elections, treasurer, attorney general etc.).

In other words, everything’s a trade-off. What threshold or criteria make one program or expenditure something you would support at the expense of other state functions? Give specific examples.

What can be done to make more state functions self-sustaining? Give specific examples.

People frequently reference privatizing liquor sales. Do you agree? What other state functions could be jettisoned … At what cost to the public or to the state as whole? Feel free to enlighten us on your understanding of how state government is organized and what obstacles present themselves in any discussion of shrinking government.

Most candidates I’ve talked to say the key to restarting the economy is helping business (especially small business) survive and thrive. How would you do this? Give specific examples. What are the obstacles to enacting these changes?

On education, if you had to make choice between funding a certain program for Pre-K or post-secondary education, which would you choose? Alternately, if you had a certain pot of money to allocate to Pre-K or post-secondary education, what percentage would you give to each.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts.

Chris Henry, reporter

8 thoughts on “A Fresh Start, Politically Speaking

  1. I saw a sign at the local Fred Meyer store stating that they had applied for a liquor licence. Is privatizing liquor sales a done deal?

    If it is a done deal, they could give the savings to education, health, transportation and law enforcement. People can’t work without good health, transportation and safety. Recreation issues could wait, since the aforementioned are basic and necessary.

    Also, the issue of too many chiefs and not enough indians should be looked at in big and small businesses and government. People shouldn’t expect to get rich and get obscene salaries until the economy turns around.

    Emilie
    Port Orchard, WA

  2. Just read an opinion by a blogger on the Sun who stated her frustration with how government gives the appearance and I believe a view held by many of government cutting the things we value first. Also it appears politicians use the drama of how the less of us are treated to raise taxes instead of cutting unneccessary programs in times of trouble.

    ” Why not community art, repaving roads, flowers for downtown, new sidewalks, new buildings, raises for government employees, tunnels, etc.”

    I am a state employee and I can not understand any increase in wages at this time . Yes I have a fasmily , yes i am not rich . But I am a public servant . I am glad I am in a Union because otherwise I think public servants would be the first to be cut, it seems we are the scapegoats like minorities and such during times like this. But certainly we should not get a raise while so many are hurting ! Also one program I find to be characteristic of the present out of touch mentality in Olympia was the earned income tax credit done on the state level. Just like the Federal level if you actually make below the poverty line , the Feds give you a tax return, more then you put in . They did this on the state level , I believe the average amout was below a 100 bucks , but the new employees, the new buruacracy to make sure it was accountable ect was a small fortune . all so the poor can get one check a year that perhaps could buy them a tank of gas and a carton of cigs . All by the way are taxed heavily.

    P.S the thousands of dollars the Government just spent on her desk looks bad , and the recent debate of the NK School District I believe highlights the problem government has , they resisted cutting the funding from teachers and administrators travel mileage and pay . before this they had already cut teachers . So teachers. books and school supplies for the class room make more sense to cut first then going to out of county meetings on student learning ???????????

  3. Emilie – There are two initiatives on the November ballot regarding privatizing state liquor sales, one of them sponsored by Costco.

    http://wei.secstate.wa.gov/osos/en/PreviousElections/2010/general/Pages/OVG_20101102.aspx

    A recent Seattle times article,
    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2012609892_liquorcost13.html, reports that the state Office of Financial Management finds the state would lose money if either of the two initiatives pass. That’s contrary to an analysis by the state auditor, which earlier this year reported a boost in revenue if the liquor business were privatized.

    According to a Washington State Liquor Control Board official interviewed for the article, the discrepancy can be accounted for in part by the fact the initiatives eliminate the state’s mark-up – which accounts for about 23 percent of the price of a bottle of liquor – and the auditor’s report assumed “the state would increase liquor taxes to compensate.” The OFM does not make such an assumption.

    The mark-up translates to $75 million annually for the state’s general fund and $47 million for local governments.

    In comments on the Kitsap Sun’s election’s guide, http://elections.kitsapsun.com/race.php?year=2010&id=91, Larry Seaquist appears to favor privatization of liquor sales, saying, “There are many more opportunities for privatizing beyond liquor and printing.” In general he advocates “cutting back to essential services.”

    Doug Richards’ profile, http://elections.kitsapsun.com/race.php?year=2010&id=91, does not include a response to our question about privatizing state services.

    A question I have for candidates on private liquor sales is how they would handle the issue of lost revenue, if that does in fact turn out to be the case.

    I actually wonder if the lost revenue wouldn’t be offset by increased sales. The OFM predicts liquor sales would increase by 5 percent, since there would be more than 10 times as many outlets (there are 315 liquor stores now). The lower price also would boost sales, the OFM said.

    I’ve personally noticed a dramatic increase in the availability of wine at grocery and other stores. It’s like a little wine shop within a store. I don’t know if any studies have been done, but I wonder if this hasn’t promoted wine consumption. Would the same thing happen with liquor?

    Chris Henry, reporter

  4. $106,000 was the total number in the news article of the budget for travel time . . But I believe some of those travel expenses are actually required to get Federal or State money for going to a meeting.Do not know what the exact dollar figure was however.

  5. Mick, if the NK travel operational budget is anything like Bremerton’s then yes, there most likely would be Federal and State money given for travel for mandated training and/or part of a bigger application process for a grant or other revenue source. Much of that money can not be used for anything else. If not used many times it is required to be returned to the State.

    A question to ask of that reported amount is… “Does it include the student travel expenses that districts are required to pay for students that have special needs not covered by another catagory or meet the “homeless” status requirements for mandated bussing back to their origin district that is required by law?”

  6. Thanks Colleen , your an encyclopedia on educational issues.

    “I don’t know if any studies have been done, but I wonder if this hasn’t promoted wine consumption. Would the same thing happen with liquor?”

    Chris I believe making it more available will cause increased consumption. Originally might have been even one of the reasons the state had control. Which shows us i think how far we come , or to some how far we have gone . The states concern had nothing to with our health at this point. Appears it was all dollars and cents and who gets those dollars and cents.

  7. Well, I don’t know about the encyclopedia part…but at least the expanded Cliff Notes version (smile). I still have a long ways to go.

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