2011 started with news of a devastating $5 billion state budget shortfall and a legislative session in Olympia that went into overtime through the end of May leading to $4.5 billion in cuts. 

Six months later, as the recession continues to hit the economy, state legislators—facing another $1.5 billion shortfall—have been called back to Olympia to end the year right where they started it with another round of overtime: A special legislative session to make more cuts. Governor Chris Gregoire is now recommending $2 billion in additional cuts.[pullquote]Looking to find something to be happy about in a year that offered little more than grim political choices, Cola readers point to developments from 2011 that give them hope. [/pullquote]

It's scary out there—and as legislators look at cutting health programs, public safety officers, environmental programs, and education— there doesn't seem to be much to be thankful for politically. Making a Sophie's Choice between ending assistance for low-income pregnant women and assistance for at-risk youth doesn't fall into the politics-of-hope category.

Looking to find something to be happy about in a year that seemed to offer little more than a repeating loop of grim political choices, we asked Cola readers to point us to political developments from the past year that give them hope. 

Up first, former state Rep. Brendan Williams.—Eds.

I’m thankful for voters recognizing the need for quality care in an aging society.

On three separate occasions – Initiatives 775, 1029, and earlier this month 1163—voters showed quality care matters. Based on its ballot title and explanatory statement, 65 percent of voters approved I-1163; comparatively, Costco spent over $20 million to buy 58.75% of the votes on Initiative 1183.

So guess which measure the Seattle Times editorially did a victory dance for and which it immediately demanded be suspended?

Yes, I-1163 will cost money – a fact that aggravates some. Yet its proponents have also been leading advocates for a just revenue system.

Tax repeal Initiative 1107 did not specify cuts, yet after its 2010 passage the Times didn't deem that fatal. Conceding "[t]here was a big-money ad campaign" (single-source-funded I-1107 was run by the same California firm that ran single-source-funded I-1183, with the same spokesperson) the Times opined "the measure was simple enough and people knew what it meant." ("A painful state budget dictated by voters," May 25, 2011).

It's curious the Times feels voters applied the wisdom of Socrates in the face of lavish advertising while, say, philosophically balancing the harms of I-1183 to family-owned contract stores, distributors, distillers, family wineries, independent grocers, and living wages generally. Yet, on a twice-passed measure like I-1163, the Times omnisciently discerned "[n]ot one voter in a thousand really understood" the initial I-1029 ("Vote no on I-1163, a grab for public money," Oct. 7, 2011), and now argues legislators have "moral authority" to suspend its successor ("In crisis, Washington Legislature should suspend I-1163," Nov. 9, 2011).

What’s the alternative price of neglect? In October, for example, a former state institution resident died after drinking laundry detergent out of a milk container, due, apparently, to a residential care staff untrained in recognizing a condition (Pica) not uncommon among those with severe disabilities.

The voters’ rejection of Tim Eyman’s Initiative 1125, and embrace of I-1163, shows they understand – contrary to Tea Party rhetoric and Democratic timidity – some things are worth spending money on.

Let’s be thankful for this teaching moment, build on it, and reverse budgetary self-immolation. Victory is in our grasp if we do not choose to snatch defeat from its jaws instead.
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