Just jack Sending mixed messages is the name of government’s game

Congress continues to try to find a way to disregard the voice of the American people and enact a health reform bill that is contrary to the clear majority of constituents. So much for “representative” government.

Apparently, the necessity for personal choice is not a major concern with Congress in creating the proposed health reforms. Individuals will not have a choice, but will be required to purchase health insurance of some sort. The insurance coverage individuals will have available for purchase may include some element of choice, but only after the government mandated coverage is included. The companies from which insurance may be purchased will allow choice from those firms government approves for business in a state or for being in business at all. It appears the same elected representatives who are so worried about a woman’s choice with respect to abortion don’t give a fig about choice in any other circumstance related to our health. So much for choice.

The governor’s gang is starting to talk about a $4 billion shortfall for the coming fiscal year. How quickly they forgot a significant part of the shortfall in the budget approved last year was filled with one-time stimulus money. The apparent fix this year will be through some sort of new taxes and fees. Heaven forbid we might consider stepping back from the wide array of programs and policies that got us into this plight in the first place. How new taxes and fees will cover the $12 billion and growing shortfall we face in 2011 is certainly not clear. Have no fear, the Legislature will look at all the choices available to them and make those really hard cuts. Let’s save Puget Sound and destroy the higher education system. Let’s continue to offer “in-state” tuition to illegal immigrants while we drive the best and brightest out of state. So much for sound fiscal policies.

Locally, the commissioners are facing another year of lower tax and fee revenues, lower economic activity and ever-growing expenses. Three years ago we were inundated with the message of “we balanced the budget.” Since then, the commissioners have dipped into reserves (a major “bad” for previous administrations). They have created Enterprise Fund divisions to get users to pay for service (at ever-increasing rates, of course) to reduce direct budget impacts. Now, the commissioners are about to dip into the road fund for a loan to make ends meet. If you have any understanding of accounting or fiscal policies, you will recognize the continuing effort as one of deficit spending and inappropriate application of designated funds. For example, a loan from the road fund cannot be repaid unless the general fund experiences an excess (contrary to current and predicted revenue estimates) or unless general fund spending is curtailed. Since the commissioners can’t figure out how to cut spending, the only answer is to increase revenues. The new tax policy will be something like – “How much do you have? Send that amount in!” So much for “balancing the budget.”

Then again, borrowing from the road fund may not be all that bad. Based on some of the projects completed recently, it might result in more fiscally effective outcomes. My favorite is the Waaga Way Bypass. The initial problem was access to the east side. The intersection at Clear Creek and Waaga Way was a mess, resulting in long delays for people trying to go east or those trying to get to Hwy 3 from Waaga Way. There also was a low-key desire for Anderson Hill residents to have easy access to the freeway. Now, about $30 million later, we have Malfunction Junction and the new access road to Old Frontier. Did anyone notice the Old Frontier intersection is a three-way stop? Just think, if we had used those stop signs at Wagga Way and Clear Creek five years ago, we could have saved about $29.9995 million and a lot of heartache. Maybe we could have used that money to solve the real problems on Bucklin Hill and the Bethel Corridor. So much for the effectiveness of centralized planning.

Do you get the message?

Jack Hamilton can be reached at gradiver@wavecable.com.

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