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Fixed menu for budget might leave a bad taste

OLYMPIA – When talking about the Legislature, it’s easy to get wrapped up in parliamentary details and arcane political jargon. To avoid that, here’s a simple way to look at the budget and tax plans as the “seven-day” special session enters Day 28.

Think of solving the budget deficit as a family dinner. Like parents who profess to know what’s good for us, top legislative Democrats are about to make Washington residents eat our Brussels sprouts for the next 30 months.

They’ve treated options on the budget and taxes like menu choices. There’s stuff we all like, other things we’re OK with, and some things we’re going to turn our collective nose up at. Just as mom and dad don’t ask the kids to plan the menu, lest we ask for pizza and ice cream three times a day, they didn’t give us much say in what to serve.

For those who say “No fair!” parents can argue that when you’re going to serve Brussels sprouts, you certainly don’t tell the kids at noon, because they’ll just talk friends into having their moms invite them over. So the Democratic parental units held the menu close to the vest, not even releasing it until about a half-hour before the other grown-ups showed up Saturday. By then the menu was a done deal, with the Brussels sprouts purchased, in the pot, about to be put on the stove.

In the living room, the Republicans are arguing that we don’t need to eat Brussels sprouts. If we’d simply order medium pizzas instead of the extra larges, drink more water and less milk, take a sack lunch instead of eating out, cut out dessert five nights a week and have somebody get a night job at McDonald’s where they feed you after your shift, we’d get by just fine.

But the Republicans don’t control the kitchen, and while mom and dad let them sit at the table as long as they mind their manners, they don’t get a say in the menu. As appealing as life with no Brussels sprouts might sound, kids, it’s not a choice we get to make before dinner.

A few of the other grown-ups, who also don’t like Brussels sprouts, are talking about sneaking out before the dinner bell rings, heading to Taco Bell for tacos, and maybe sneaking back for dessert. But they know mom and dad would probably notice and be p.o.’d.

Some of us are not happy we didn’t get to pick the icky vegetable we have to eat. While there had been some earlier talk about lima beans or broccoli or cauliflower or turnips, on Saturday, we were told it’s Brussels sprouts, period.

It’s possible that Democrats are right about the need for taxes, just as your parents were right about vegetables. Some of us may even decide Brussels sprouts aren’t so bad after all, although others will probably always gag.

The real question, however, is the way they’re being served up – and whether we’ll be so fed up with the vegetables the Democratic leaders chose, and the way they were put on our plates, that this fall we’ll turn the kitchen over to the Republicans.

Bon appétit.

Spin Control, a weekly political column by reporter Jim Camden, also appears online with daily items, reader comments and videos at blogs/spincontrol.
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