February 26, 2010 in Letters

Personnel costs drive budget

The Spokesman-Review

As a former legislative budget analyst and lobbyist with about 20 years of Olympia experience, I have several observations about Sen. Lisa Brown’s comments (“State needs more revenue,” Feb. 21).

First of all, legislators would commonly demand of anyone objecting to tax hikes, “Where should we cut?” The three primary objectives of the state general fund operating budget as explained by former state budget director Marty Brown, “educate, medicate and incarcerate.” To the extent that existing funding can cover these essentials, then whatever funding is left over has to cover other items.

Second, in the early 1970s, as the state economy struggled with the Boeing bust, the Legislature enacted temporary tax hikes with just biennial expiration dates. Today, I suspect that any tax hikes are here to stay as these will just backfill budget problems and not create any long-term solutions.

Third, and most importantly, personnel compensation is the largest single cost driver for any government. The only way to control this spiraling cost center is to eliminate the source. Until that is done, the “bow wave” of rising budget pressures will continue.

Douglas Pullen

Liberty Lake

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