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Disability Action Center NW

Service cuts will hurt

Service cuts will hurt
Low taxes diminish transportation and education programs

Tony Buhr

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Published: 01/14/2011

The New Year has rolled in and with it new state budget cuts. This should not come as any sort of surprise. After the repeal of candy, bottled water and soda taxes in November, cuts to social programs were unavoidable.

While some of the cuts came from a 3 percent reduction from government employee salaries, most of the cuts were to public services like education, disability and unemployment benefits, according to the Puget Sound Business Journal. There is nothing wrong with cuts to services. They are a completely acceptable means of balancing a budget, but what astounds me is the complete lack of insight from voters.

Ferry employees frustrated by the decision to stop certain routes and hike prices have started a petition. This shocking denial of reality is beyond belief, emphasized by the fact that the ferry employees are calling for a statewide tax to support the system.

This system, necessary to western Washington residents, costs more to the state than its revenues can cover. It is therefore ludicrous to argue that residents in Spokane should be required to pay for a service they do not even have access to. Gregoire, on the other hand, calls for a tax district which only includes the nine counties serviced by ferries, according to The Enterprise — a perfectly reasonable request.

The cuts to education, particularly for K-12, could bring anyone concerned for the future of our state to tears. Particularly disturbing to me is the suspension of teacher salary increases during the next few years.

A beginning teacher’s salary is around $40,000 per year, according to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction — about the same pay grade as a manager of McDonald’s. In the past, teachers banked on a significant pay raise each year, which will now be suspended for at least two years. This is unacceptable if we desire any standard of education for our children. No one will look to enter the education profession when they may have a better future working for a fast food chain.

The decision to cut social programs instead of living with higher taxes is not a surprising one. It is based on normal human reaction — when faced with the issue of now or later, humans think in terms of instant gratification and ignore the possible consequences of the future.

We must not be ignorant of this decision for it will have consequences. For example, these cuts will affect the public services we see every day, not some invisible branch of bureaucracy sucking up funds.

Cuts will be made to organizations we tend to dismiss every day. Maybe your bus will stop showing up on time to get you to class, your parks will get run down with beer cans and used condoms and you will be forced to suffer the DOL line for twice as long. The more our state is forced to reduce in spending, the greater the inconvenience and loss of the programs we count on every day.

The next time your tire pops due to a pot hole on B street that has not been taken care of due to budget cuts, instead of blaming the inefficiency of government, think of the overworked and underpaid construction worker who is unable to keep up with the demand. Realize the decisions made in November have avalanched into the outcome we must now suffer through.