Op-Ed: Questioning government is good for state, country

I recently learned a constituent contacted the Huckleberry Press questioning the facts in a press release I and my House seatmate issued on the state budget and tax package titled, “Democrats pass ‘no new ideas’ budget, leave taxpayer with nearly $1 billion tab” March 5. I am always happy to see citizens questioning information and demanding the facts. That is what America is all about.

The question from the constituent wasn’t completely clear, but the gist was the information I offered about the budget and tax package was untrue. If I am wrong about something, I will openly admit it and offer a correction. I would never purposely mislead my constituents. Frankly, I cannot make this stuff up.

Democrats have not been responsible budget leaders. Here are the facts: Spending increased 40 percent since 2005 under one-party rule – $8 billion. Meanwhile, state revenues grew by roughly 20 percent. If you spend twice what you are bringing in, the bill eventually comes due. When the economy turned sour, our budget was already upside down. Last year, budget writers used nearly $5 billion in one-time money, including federal bailout dollars, to fill the spending gap.

That was irresponsible and did not address the fundamental problems caused by overspending.
There have not been major cuts to government: Special interest groups, entitlement programs and unions just won’t get all the money they were promised. It’s like asking your parents for $10 in allowance and receiving $5. Did you get a cut or did you get less than you wanted? Here is a look at how spending has outpaced revenue, even in the best economic times:


First, since March 5, the tax package has been in flux, which is why we are currently in a special legislative session. The Senate voted for its tax package, Senate Bill 6143, on March 19. Taxes in the measure total more than $800 million – slightly less than previous tax proposals this year. As of the day I wrote this column, March 22, the House voted on its revised tax package, which totals $798.7 million, also a bit lower than the previous tax hike plan. Here’s a look at the revised tax package that passed the House:


Below, I outline resources for constituents to find the factual information prepared by House policy and non-partisan legislative staff. I use these for my press releases. My hope is Huckleberry Press readers review the information for themselves. My staff is always happy to assist you with finding information or connecting you with legislative staff who can answer your questions. Here are some excellent online resources:

As for the fact that the state budget will increase spending by $200 million despite the many cries of cuts, if you do not trust me, read The Seattle Times front page article from March 10, 2010 titled, “State spending on track to rise, despite budget cuts.” In part, the article reads:“Yet as the legislative session nears an end, spending is on track to increase. Lawmakers are planning cuts but have apparently set aside efforts to streamline state government that many feel could ease future budget problems.”

You can read the full article by typing this link into your Internet browser: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2011312719_spending11m.html.

Finally, it is a fact that the tax packages as proposed this session would be the largest one-year tax increase in the state’s history. The 1981 tax increase was $724.2 million. This year’s tax proposals in the House and Senate total roughly $800 million. I voted “no” on the tax package, which was a bipartisan vote. Only Democrats voted “yes” on the tax package.

Again, I thank the constituent who asked me to show my work. I have posted this column online so as you read this in the Huckleberry Press, you can find the links to all the resources I listed above on my Web site. Constituents are always welcome to call me directly with questions and concerns, or to locate additional information. And, a big “thank you” to the Huckleberry Press for challenging me on behalf of its readers!

I look forward to the end of the special session so I can return home and meet with constituents around the district.

Rep. Joel Kretz serves as the deputy House Republican leader. He can be reached at (360) 786-7988 or kretz.joel@leg.wa.gov. His Web site is houserepublicans.wa.gov/Kretz.

State Representative Joel Kretz, 7th Legislative District
425A Legislative Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7988 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000