Gov. Chris Gregoire has been preparing for a no-new-revenues budget, a deficit of $1.1 billion through June and a shortfall of potentially $5 billion more for the two years after that. But Gregoire's all-cuts budget mantra is disputed by activist Jerry Reilly who cited polling this week.
Reilly, lobbyist for the Eldercare Alliance and part of a coalition trying to sustain funding for human services, said in an email that Elway Research added a few questions for his group in its recent polling. Elway found:
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I'm not a subscriber to the Elway Poll so I haven't seen its details. But the Seattle Times had this blog report saying most voters think the budget can be bridged by making "budget cuts, spending freezes and 'money from somewhere' " – with the latter category apparently unexplained.
It might be a safe bet some lawmakers are getting right on that "money from somewhere" message – not overlooking a thing, including coins in couches.
The Times' take on the report from Stuart Elway was that "only 40 percent" said lawmakers would need to raise taxes to raise the budget, down from 54 percent a year ago when taxes were raised. Complicating tax-increase moves this year, of course, is voter approval of Initiative 1053. It requires a two-thirds supermajority vote to pass tax
and fee increases in the Legislature or a statewide vote on the taxes later in the year. [Update: My error; fee increases require simple majority votes.]
The poll covered 404 registered voters on Dec. 2-5 and had an error margin of plus or minus 5 percent.
Interestingly, Reilly found support for an income tax, which voters soundly rejected on Nov. 2 in voting lopsidedly against Initiative 1098. The anti-1098 campaign harped on the possibility lawmakers could extend the proposed tax on high earners to everyone within a few years.
Critics of tax increases might see a pro-liberal bias in Elway's findings. But Reilly said Elway found that a constitutional amendment protecting lower-income people from the income tax effectively enjoyed majority support.
As he wrote:
Reilly is just one voice, but it will be interesting to see if anyone with power of the purse strings listens to him. In the short term, Gregoire and majority Democrats might have no choice but to seek cuts to bring the budget into balance through June, but longer term they might have options if they put something on the ballot.
Or so Reilly's message suggests.