HEADLINES : Washington
Put it on Plastic! – New Approach to Big Budget Problem Emerging in House
OLYMPIA, Feb. 10.-House Democrats are thinking of going into debt to help plug the big $1.5 billion hole in the state budget, a scheme that could eliminate the need for the Legislature's much-talked-about plan to go the voters for a tax increase.
By bonding against some of the state's big revenue streams - perhaps tobacco-settlement money and lottery revenue - majority Democrats could raise just as much cash as the governor's half-billion-dollar proposal for a half-cent increase in the sales tax. Perhaps even more. And not only would they avoid a dicey public vote on a tax increase that might well fail, the plan also could blow all talk of big reforms this session out of the water.
Critics are aghast. They say it's a bit like paying the grocery bill with a credit card. Eventually the bill comes due, and if the state can't afford it now, it's not going to be even harder paying it later. Meanwhile minority Republicans would have little leverage - the thinking is that these bonds would require only a simple majority vote.
The put-it-on-plastic solution has been rumored for days now in the hallways of the statehouse, but it went public Thursday morning when it became a leading topic of discussion at the state Labor Council's political-endorsement convention in Olympia. Labor Council leaders said revenue bonds might be the best way to get the state over the hump, and they will be asking lawmakers to support them.