Initiatives at heart of funding tangle

Are the budget problems the fault of a failing economy, Legislative snafus, or just maybe are poorly conceived initiatives the problem with state budgets?

In the scramble to get out the door on time, Legislators cut some interesting budget deals to make that billion plus shortfall.

Our Kitsap legislators fought valiantly (if not always together) to save dollars for our schools and urgently needed transportation improvements, such as foot ferries.

Ironically, it was two voter-passed initiatives meant to increase teacher salaries and decrease class size that both caused and helped solve the funding issues for our schools.

The voter-passed initiative intended to give teachers badly needed salary increases caused Legislators real agony. Reluctant to ignore voters, Legislators voted to give teachers the pay raise, but not some of the training and planning time the lawmakers funded previously.

One of our favorite initiatives I-728, designed to create smaller class sizes, now will become “rescue funding” for school districts facing budget cuts. Instead of funding smaller classes, the dollars will now be used to pay teacher salaries––that keeps teachers in the classroom. That isn’t quite what voters had in mind, but it will have to do.

Who’s the culprit in these funding contradictions?

Ironically, it is us.

We willy-nilly vote for any initiative that sounds like a good idea, leaving the Legislature to find a way to fund all these various, contradictory schemes. That was usually possible when the dot.coms were roaring and the state’s budget was fat with excess. Now, in leaner times, the dollars aren’t there to fund the basic essential expenses, much less the initiatives. Solomon himself couldn’t balance such a hamstrung budget.

And where is Tim Eyman hiding now that his initiatives have hit the fan?