Who’ll it be for Washington state governor? Ellen Craswell, fiscal conservative? Or Gary Locke, education advocate?
It’s a tough call, because we don’t agree completely with either candidate. As a legislator, Locke was too quick to tax and regulate, and too slow to trim the unionized bureaucracy. Craswell campaigns on a simplistic pledge to chop state government by a third and recast it as a theocracy, run by and for the religious right.
Reluctantly, we endorse Locke.
We do applaud the push to downsize government - especially at the federal level. It’s good policy to move governmental functions closer to the people who are represented and served. But the buck has to stop somewhere. For many functions that all of us count on, state government is where the job gets done.
That’s why it’s irresponsible to seek cuts as drastic - and as vague - as Craswell favors. State government funds public schools, community colleges, the six four-year universities, prisons, courts, highways, the social safety net, state parks, consumer protection and lots more.
Start with education. Granted, public schools need reform. But we need public schools. That’s where most of Washington’s children acquire the skills on which their future, and that of our economy, depends. Craswell wants the state out of the education business. That’s absurd. Our public schools can be saved.
Meanwhile, our higher education system is seriously undersized. This threatens our future. It forces employers to import educated young people from out-of-state. There is not now enough capacity to give this decade’s high school graduates the affordable degree they need to avoid a low-wage career. That’s because this state spent years fattening welfare handouts and limiting its colleges to an ever-smaller piece of the budgetary pie. Yet, in the 21st-century economy, college will separate the haves from the have-nots.
Today, Gary Locke is a firm advocate for public education. With that single stance, he shows the broad vision and accurate priorities needed to lead our diverse state through the struggles of welfare reform and on into the future.
But, we strongly urge him to heed the loud protests from the business community - the people who pay the taxes and create the jobs. Washington’s tax and regulatory climate is intolerably hostile. As governor, Locke should surround himself not with career bureaucrats but rather with private-sector administrators who know how to build a lean, innovative organization and have experienced the excess of arrogant agency regulators.
If Locke does that, he’d be a great governor. Even if the only thing he does is strengthen public education, as he promises, he’d still be a good governor, and that’s enough to warrant your support.
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