They Say Cut Back? We Say Fight Back!—Washington State Budget Showdown


In 2009, Democratic Governor Christine Gregoire and the Democrat super-majority in the state legislature wrung out a $9 billion deficit through an all-cuts budget, hacking away at everything in sight from education and health care to services for children, the poor, and the elderly. Big business and the rich, by contrast, escaped unscathed – the state’s regressive tax system remained horrendously skewed in favor of corporations like Boeing, Microsoft, Weyerhauser, Amazon, and the rich who own them.

2010 is shaping up to be more of the same. State coffers received $2.6 billion less than projected. So Gregoire and her Democrat pals are revving up their chainsaws in preparation. This year, Washington workers and youth face elimination of the state’s Basic Health program for the working poor and massive cuts to higher education and financial aid, among others on a long, long list of cuts.

One crucial difference, however, is that this year workers and young people are organizing to fight back, demanding that the budget not be balanced at our expense. In January, over 500 students and faculty walked out of classes at Eastern Washington University, protesting cuts to education funding and tuition increases.

On February 14, Socialist Alternative and several campus coalitions are organizing a statewide student conference to resist further education cuts. The next day, we’re mobilizing to a demonstration at the capitol steps called by the state workers’ unions. And on March 4, branches of Socialist Alternative are co-organizing demonstrations in four cities demanding funding for education and social services, not the war in Iraq.

Despite the ravenous enthusiasm of politicians from both corporate parties to prey on ordinary people in their endeavor to balance the budget, it is possible to defeat these cuts through determined struggle. In California, strikes, demonstrations, and occupations at public universities forced Governor Schwarzenegger to reverse course on some cuts to higher education. And just to our south, unions and progressive organizations in Oregon succeeded in passing two ballot measures to prevent social cuts by taxing corporate profits and wealthy individuals. Here in Washington, we too can fight back and win!

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