Maybe safer but surely poorer

Things are quiet on most of Washington state's political fronts. That is not necessarily good.

Politicians are lying low. In that respect they are like bears: They hibernate for a time. Bears, when food is scarce; politicians, when votes are scarce...or right after legislative sessions.

The backwash from revenue-raising ventures in Olympia will start to be felt by residents this summer, when gas prices climb and "sin" taxes escalate. It's going to cost more to drive, smoke and drink.

In recent days politicians have attempted to focus the major news stories on the positive issues related to raising taxes: the rebuilding of the Alaskan Viaduct in Seattle and major road construction projects from Cheney to Ferndale and from Omak to Prosser.

Gov. Christine Gregoire and a herd of department officials and aides took a bus trip up Interstate 5 to stand under the Seattle's famed, shaky viaduct and proclaim that the actions of the Legislature in the just-completed session would "make citizens safer."

For some reason, she did not say, "...safer, but poorer."

There is no question road construction projects are needed throughout the state. The only question is where should the money come from for those projects?

Public officials, regardless of the size of the governmental entity, regardless of territory covered, seldom think about running the individual entities as a business.

Well-run businesses, when confronted with declining revenues or unexpected expenses, always look internally first to see what expenses can be cut. Governments first look externally to see what revenues can be increased.

That's what happened in this last legislative session. It's a trend that's not likely to change unless the voters demand a new agenda.

Government operated like a business?

It's not a novel concept, but it's one idea that seems to never gain favor with so-called public servants who have the power to spend other people's money.

George Smith is the executive director of the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association.

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