Reason to worry about the balanced-budget law

Dec 1, 2017

One-party rule returned to Olympia this week after the November general election results were certified, giving Democrats control of the Senate for 2018.

I hope this doesn’t mean the end for Washington’s unique 4-year balanced-budget law, adopted in 2012. We knew the law would protect taxpayers, but it’s also helpful to social-service organizations and other groups. They too appreciate predictability in state spending, instead of a rollercoaster ride.

Let’s see how much new spending the governor puts in his upcoming budget proposal. That may tell whether the balanced-budget law is in his sights.

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Speaking of targets: Bob Ferguson hasn’t been shy about taking on the feds, to the point that several Republican senators became curious about the amount of taxpayer money involved.

One of our staffers e-mailed a member of Ferguson’s staff about it – a routine sort of thing – but didn’t get a response. I did instead, directly from Ferguson.

His 9-page letter contained more posturing (“it is unfortunate that my office has had to take so many legal actions against the Trump Administration”) than detail about the costs and fees incurred. He dismissed those as “minimal” and seemed indignant that clients (legislators) would dare inquire about how their attorney is using public resources.

Attorneys are accustomed to tracking their hours. If Ferguson would disclose how many hours have gone to what he calls a tiny fraction of his agency’s workload, I’ll decide if “minimal” is accurate.

The letter I’d prefer from the AG would assure me that his Trump fixation isn’t taking attention away from lawsuits where the state is the defendant, like McCleary. It would tell me where he stands on issues that are in our legislative arena or on the horizon, such as heroin-injection sites, and Sound Transit’s unconstitutional actions, and whether he’ll support the disclosure of the names of people with concealed-carry permits.

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Dino Rossi had agreed to succeed the late Andy Hill only until a new 45th District senator was elected. He sure made the most of his one session, taking on Sound Transit and supporting our state parks. Of course, the governor bushwhacked what would have been Senator Rossi’s finest achievement this year – the manufacturing-tax reforms that won strong bipartisan support in the Legislature. I’ll miss his friendship and formidable legislative skills, but I suspect he’s not through serving his east King County neighbors and our state.