This editorial appeared in The Olympian.
On the eve of the general election, Thurston County commissioners voted 2-1 for a tax increase to fund programs for drug offenders and people with mental illness.
It was the right move, but not much of a political gamble for any of the three commissioners.
At the time of the tax increase vote, Democrat Cathy Wolfe was seeking re-election and was in what was though to be a tight race with former Republican Commissioner Judy Wilson. Voting for a tax increase on election eve was risky, but the fact that more than 80,000 votes had already been cast eased Wolfe's burden. The question is: Would Wolfe have cast the same vote a month ago — before the ballots were mailed?
For Commissioners Bob Macleod and Diane Oberquell, the tax vote was even less chancy. Oberquell, who leaves office at the end of the year and voted against the tax increase. No risk there.
Macleod, who supported the one-tenth of 1 percent sales tax increase, announced one week later that he, too, will leave office at the end of the year. No risk there.
Where the three commissioners are stretched is on the daunting task of balancing the county budget. Commissioners must plug a $4.3 million hole in the county's current expense budget. With roughly 75 percent of that budget going into the criminal justice system — law enforcement officers, corrections officers, prosecutors, clerks, defense attorneys and the courts — finding $4.3 million in program cuts is going to be painful.
To read the complete editorial, visit The Olympian.