Monday, May 4, 2009

FUSE review of legislative session - ouch!

FUSE is an online progressive advocacy group that brought out thousands of new voters for Obama and Gregoire last fall. They are the left's answer to Tim Eyman and a grass roots organization that uses creative approaches to organizing online.

In their 2009 legislative report card FUSE wasn't kind to us down in Olympia. According to their report card, "As key national leaders are responding to unprecedented challenges with bold and decisive action, our State's leaders gave us a muddled retreat backwards.". The Governor and legislators were given Ds for their work on the budget and the environment, a D- for labor and an F for good government. For FUSE, the only redeeming values were domestic partnership legislation and several small measures in consumer protection.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, for many legislators, the bad economic climate had the effect of making them much more risk aversive. Rightly or wrongly, legislators were more reluctant to go against business on labor and environmental issue out of fear of harming the business climate.

More importantly, unlike the federal government, state's cannot run a deficit and invest billions to stimulate the economy or protect the vulnerable. We have to balance a budget. Worse yet, initiative 960 requires a 2/3 majority for the legislature to raise taxes forcing us to save $9 billion (about 25% of the budget) through cuts alone.

Senate Majority Leaders Lisa Brown made a valiant attempt to strike down 960 by appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court. The risk aversive and highly political court refused to rule arguing that the "issue was not before them". As session rolled on, Brown and other legislators started an effort to send a progressive income tax to the state voters. However, since it would take up to a year and a half to start collecting revenues, it key Senators were unable to find major organization backing for the initiative.

But I think we have to take FUSE's criticism to heart. We can do better. The question is how can the legislature and the Governor turn things around as the state comes out of it's recession.

1 comment:

  1. I agree about some of FUSE's report. Unfortunately, they fall into the same logical bramble as the R's when they don't offer valid alternatives for balancing the budget. If they are willing to criticize the budget, they should present alternative scenarios...and not just sending a revenue package to the voters that's highly likely to fail.