Gov. Chris Gregoire on Thursday dismissed claims by both gubernatorial candidates that they can put more money into education without increasing taxes.
The governor said in the past that new taxes would be needed, but took time Thursday to dismantle proposals that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee and his Republican opponent Rob McKenna have made.
For example, Gregoire said, streamlining government using the “lean management” principles Inslee has discussed will not free up enough money for education. The governor said she’s already gone that route as a way for state agencies to meet growing demand.
She notes state budget cuts have already eliminated thousands of state jobs, yet the population and need for services keeps growing. Lean management, she said, is a way of “coping with the dramatic cuts” and will not be a way to pay for education.
Gregoire, who has endorsed Inslee, also said the next governor is unlikely to close significant tax breaks, which both candidates have talked about as a way to raise money.
The governor noted she talked about closing tax breaks when she first ran for governor and got almost nowhere. Closing tax breaks requires a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate, which is nearly impossible, she said. Plus, “You will always find a constituency that will say … you’re going to eliminate jobs” if a tax break is eliminated.
She took aim at McKenna’s proposal to fund education by limiting non-education spending to 6 percent increases per biennium. McKenna has said capping non-education spending will shift a growing share of the state budget to schools.
Gregoire said the next governor can’t simply shut the doors to prisons or health care services if they reach their budget cap. “That’s a nice hypothetical. You need to understand as governor you don’t have that much discretion over the budget. When your caseload is what it is, you must fill it,” she said.
The governor said she will have some kind of proposal to raise money in her budget that will be released later this year. The state Department of Revenue is working on several proposals, she said, and no decision has been made.
“I would be remiss to sit here and do nothing about education. I have to, as part of my budget, put forward how I am going to solve what is approximately $1 billion (in additional funding) for the next biennium in K-12 education,” she said.
When asked how she felt about both gubernatorial candidates making budget claims that she considers unworkable, Gregoire noted the date and time she will leave office. “On Jan. 16 at 12:01, welcome to my world.”