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Rep. Carlyle: "Who Pays, Who Receives?"

By Josh Feit June 1, 2011

The sate house Democrats' slogan and logo (yes, they have a slogan and logo) is "One Washington." However, Rep. Reuven Carlyle (D-36, Queen Anne, Ballard) believes there are two Washingtons. In a session wrap up,  Carlyle wrote a blog post expressing his frustration about the discrepancy between how the budget treated urban and rural interests.
Our state budget reduced funding for many programs and services that are particularly valuable to the political establishment in our urban core. It generally left mostly untouched programs particularly appreciated by the political establishment in rural Washington.

Carlyle goes to great lengths in his post to be courteous. And he encourages—as he likes to say— "courageous honesty" and "open discussion." That said, his frustration with rural legislators (he says there is "a degree of shame" in non-urban legislators' POV that any victory for King County is a loss for them), is palpable:
...whenever ‘urban’ legislators raise the issue of the philosophical inconsistency of voting against taxes consistently but demanding disproportionate funding from Olympia, we are called out for being divisive. The fact that many from rural areas that are substantial consumers of tax resources from state government yet complain vigorously and generally about ‘overspending’ points to their inconsistency.

We have a tremendous discomfort in Olympia about discussing our differences lest it be seen as arrogance or disrespect. We don’t allow the perception to surface in our dialogues about the differing needs of rural communities versus urban areas lest it be seen as divisive rather than unifying. In our budget debate on the House floor, not one Republican from a rural community even so much as mentioned the fact that the state fullly funded levy equalization to the tune of more than $600 million. Not a word of recognition, appreciation or acknowledgement despite the fact that it is the largest rural subsidy program in state government and overwhelmingly benefits communities that rarely vote for the type of legislators who wrote the House budget.

Rep. Carlyle has prioritized this issue all year. In January, he asked the state Office of Financial Management to crunch the numbers on the ratio between who pays most of the state’s taxes and who receives most of the benefits. The numbers showed that King County pays in far more than it receives—nearly a $3 billion difference—while rural counties like Whitman, Ferry, Lincoln, and Garfield topped the list of net receivers. (Thurston was also a net receiver, but it's a bit of an oddity because the state government operates there.)
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