Wrapping up Rally Day in Olympia

February 15, 2010 | Alex Stone

President’s Day in Olympia was celebrated with rallies by two different groups, each delivering a different message to our state legislators and Governor.

At 10 a.m. the first rally of TEA Partiers kicked off with some solid gold oldies and and no shortage of talk about limiting the role of government. A common theme with all of their speakers: Lower taxes to spur economic activity. Sound familiar? Maybe because it was the same strategy employed by the last Presidential administration — a strategy that submarined our national economy and brought us the current Great Recession.

There was also plenty of tough talk about cracking down on special interests. But I never heard a peep of support for closing any of the 500+ tax exemptions that have contributed to the current shortage of state funds.

Another of the TEA Party’s supposed reasons for cutting taxes is to help out ‘average Americans’ by keeping their taxes low. However, there was no mention of what would happen to these ‘average Americans’ when schools could no longer afford books, state universities drastically cut enrollment rates, and programs designed to maintain our high standards for air and water lose funding. Several of the TEA Party speakers gave lip service to their ‘commitment to funding essential state services,’ but none of them were willing to detail the real-world consequences of their recommended cuts.

On to the revenue party.

The Revenue Rally (which began at 12), put on by the Rebuilding Our Economic Future Coalition, had a much more vibrant atmosphere. Sure, it could be that most of the fog had burned off by noon, but I think it had something to do with all of the young people, students, kids and energy from community groups and labor unions.

Many of the speakers from this rally focused on the effects of cuts on the average American. There was a focus on ‘responsible revenue’ and closing tax loopholes, which Senator Ed Murray promised to support. He said the legislature would do the work to close tax loopholes and put together a revenue package, but will need the support of the people in November. His speech was met with cheers.

Maybe the quote of the day came from Carol Dotlich, President of the Washington Federation of State Employees. I was furiously blogging away with no tape recorder going at the time, but the substantive message rings true: ‘To say its a budget crisis is inaccurate. We simply have a temporary revenue crisis and a lack of political will.’

Perhaps the most effectual part of the rally was when a half dozen people stood at the podium to explain how previous budget cuts had (and how more would) affect them. From college students, to veterans, to people with elderly relatives on state assistance, it was clear the potential impacts of proposed state budget cuts would be catastrophic.

Legislators are now getting some direct democracy, with supporters from both sides attending scheduled meetings and encouraging their elected officials to support specific legislative agendas.

By Washington State Patrol estimates: the TEA Party rally attracted 2,000-2,300, while the Revenue rally attracted 5,500.

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Posted in State Economy, Tax and Budget

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