Democracy in Action

Recently, the Governor’s office has been flooded with phone calls from concerned citizens.

Surely the looming budget shortfall of $5 billion, a collapsing housing market, draconian cuts to state funded higher education programs and other ‘truly ugly’ cuts to come sparked this outpouring of civic action.

Alas, that is not the case. This yearly deluge of phone calls – almost a holiday tradition in itself – is from people complaining about holiday displays at the state capitol.

Clearly, these are passionate and concerned citizens exercising their opinions. But the topic here is not the First Amendment. It is civic engagement of a different sort that has raised this question in my mind:

I wonder, how many people have called to complain about cuts to our state health care system, higher education, DSHS programs, and most of all about the regressive outdated tax structure that got us in this mess in the first place?

My guess: far less than the estimated 200+ calls per day currently tying up the phone lines in Olympia.

On my wish list for Christmas: exercise your civic duty by making a phone call to the governor, writing a letter to your state senator, or sending an email to your legislator.

The state needs our help to get through this difficult economic downturn, and our leaders need to hear from their constituents.

But what to say? Here are a couple of suggestions:

Make family insurance happen. Family leave insurance will be critical to helping working families get through this recession. The economic security of thousands of Washington’s working families hangs in the balance.

Fix taxes from the ground up. Washington has the most regressive (read: least equitable) tax structure in the nation. It relies too heavily on sales taxes—which don’t bring in revenue when people stop purchasing goods during a recession. Changing that system is essential to restoring a strong state economy.

Keep the doors open. High-quality teachers and access to early childhood education programs is essential to success in school and in life. Expand the Early Childhood Education Career and Wage Ladder to cover more centers and decrease turnover.

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