The contrast between the Legisla-ture’s difficulties with the state’s budget and the exercises in imagination being undertaken by local government entities illustrates the difference between choosing what might be done and deciding what can be done.
Late into the special session legislators struggle with making choices among the programs they wish to fund with the limited amount of revenue they can expect to have available.
Having spent a few years raising spending before the recession lowered the revenue level, legislators have to find a way to get by without the higher-than-usual revenues caused by the “bubble” economy.
Much of the previous spending increases appear to have resulted from increasing the pay of people who are employed by or paid by the state, and reducing that kind of spending is apparently next to impossible.
While the recipients of the higher compensation naturally want to keep receiving it, the folks who would have to go along with higher tax rates to provide the funding don’t seem to be enthusiastic about doing so.
The legislators are in a box — no easy way to reduce spending plans and no apparent public support for increasing revenue.
In our local area, some leaders are doing what might be characterized as dangling lures in the water to see if they can catch anything.
It doesn’t take much spending to engage in this sort of activity, since government and private sector leaders merely need to find the time on their schedules to get together and talk.
Maybe it will never amount to anything other than talk; but if there are no plans sketched out for the future, it is unlikely that things could develop as we might wish.
Take the latest idea percolating in Port Orchard as an example — building a new YMCA.
Such a project may fit well within the Bethel corridor development already under consideration if annexation of the area into the city occurs.
It may take years to find the money from the private and public sectors to build it, but gaining public support requires putting the idea out for the public to consider.
As development of the Bethel corridor goes along, people need to keep in mind the things they want built; so if a YMCA is one of those things it cannot be ignored.
If public support grows as the discussion continues, the money could perhaps be raised to build it — probably not soon, but eventually.
This sort of project could be a long time in coming, much like the idea of building a new library in Port Orchard.
The library project will probably continue in the discussion stage for quite a while longer unless someone finds a pot of gold or public support grows to the point that taxpayers agree to fund whatever cannot be done through private fundraising.
The essential factor is public support, and we can hardly know what the public supports if people don’t put their ideas out for discussion.
At the Port of Bremerton, there is a somewhat similar bit of brainstorming going on that involves developing the South Kitsap Industrial Area (SKIA).
It may seem like a pipedream, but several people are actually wondering what it would take to get a Boeing manufacturing operation located in the SKIA.
Perhaps Boeing isn’t likely to build here, but whatever would be needed for that corporation’s plant would probably be needed for any other large industrial development.
It couldn’t hurt to spend some time once in a while discussing what we have and what we would need to build to accommodate any industrial development in the SKIA.
Taxpayers’ agreement to pay some of the costs for new infrastructure is probably essential, so the time to try gaining the public’s support is long before the money is needed to take advantage of an opportunity.
The legislators are in a box where they need revenue right now that they don’t have, but local leaders can sketch out plans for the future and begin building the support required to get the revenue when it is needed.
Bob Meadows is a Port Orchard resident.