It’s popular to talk about all the “hard choices” facing our elected officials in Olympia as they stare down a $4.5 billion revenue shortfall – but in truth, many of the choices aren’t hard at all. They’re actually “no-brainers”.
A recent column by Diane Sosne in the Tacoma News Tribune does an excellent job of pointing out that spending a few dollars now actually saves taxpayers thousands more in the future.
For example: Should we eliminate prenatal care and health screening ($785 per mother), or pay between $50,000 – $500,000 for premature births? Spend $2,200 to treat a person with mental illness in the community, or $30,000 – $200,000 per person at a state prison or hospital?
It is impossible to put a price on the very real human consequences of dramatic cuts to public services – our children, our elderly, the sick and frail, and our most vulnerable people will suffer greatly. But even a basic cost/benefit analysis made by the most cold-hearted accountant shows that making those cuts is not only a human tragedy, but a foolish and stupid act.
There is an alternative. And that is, as Sosne outlines, to:
Put everything on the table, including the hundreds of tax exemptions and loopholes that add up to $6.5 billion in foregone annual revenue…
Tax breaks for out-of-state banks or health care for kids? Sales tax preferences for stockbrokers or community mental health care? Custom software tax loopholes or pre-natal care for pregnant women?
These are real choices we face as a state. And for the sake of fiscal responsibility and plain human decency, we need the Legislature to take the first step by putting these choices squarely before the public as they debate our state’s budget.
Here is a short list (click –> scroll down) of specific tax exemptions that, if ended, could restore specific public services now on the chopping block – there are literally hundreds more where those came from. Our latest fact sheet, Setting Priorities in Washington: Raising revenue to invest in our future, follows up on last year’s “Ax it or Tax It” series with other exemptions to ax and sins to tax.
Ending public services that are critical to so many Washingtonians – and offer taxpayers a good bang for the buck – isn’t the only option for legislators in this upcoming budget session. Please take a moment to sign this petition to the Governor and Washington State Legislature urging them to consider all the alternatives before making more cuts.