Bruce Smith of The Dispatch (Pierce County) filed this report from Eatonville,
“Over 80 Eatonville and Graham residents gathered in separate locations Saturday for an historic occasion: all three 2nd Legislative District elected officials – all Republicans – hosted four joint Town Hall meetings, including ones in Yelm and Orting. Senator Randi Becker and Representatives Jim McCune and Tom Campbell spoke to their constituents on the marathon day.
The mood of the Graham audience was often tense, and focused on two primary themes: taxes and big government…
‘There is a gap of about $2.6 billion between our expected revenues and projected expenses,’ Tom Campbell said. ‘We will close it because the state constitution requires that we do so, but the majority party will only do so by patching it together with new taxes and some spending cuts.’
Campbell also said that a fundamental shift has to take place in Olympia, so that state legislators first accept what revenue is available and then prioritize where that money needs to be spent.
As for new taxes, Campbell foresees that about $800 million or more will be raised in a variety of quirky taxes, such as on candy and snack food.
More troubling though, he said the state is planning to repeal many tax exemptions for businesses, a strategy he says will blunt job growth wihout generating the expected monies. He also anticipates about $1.5 billion being slashed from state funding across the board, including education and health care. Currently, public education gets 42 percent of the state budget, while colleges receive over 10 percent.
Jim McCune spoke to the financial specifics of his Governmental Affairs committee, which is slashing $76 million from eighty agencies, with the biggest piece coming from the Department of Corrections. McCune said the DOC will be closing all or parts of several prisons.
Randi Becker stressed that the state needs to renegotiate salary contracts with its employees, particularly those in unions. Becker specifically called for the abolition of “step” payments, which are guaranteed pay increases based on longevity.
‘We need to get down to baseline government,’ she said.”
Ed. Note: Yelm got perhaps half this audience at the Town Hall held by the same three elected officials on the same day at Rosemont.