Let's balance the budget while creating jobs

We don’t really have a budget problem – we have a jobs problem.

When the economy was good, the budget was fine. So the question is this: How can we balance the budget while creating jobs?

Budget cuts don’t create jobs, or fix your economy.

If budget cuts created jobs, our state economy would be booming, since we cut $10 billion in spending.

Nobel-prize winning economist Paul Krugman rightly pointed out that states are wrong to cut jobs when the economy is weak. It only hurts you in the long run.

Cuts are job killers, because state troopers, prison guards and teachers go to the unemployment line.

I agree with the title of Republican leader Richard DeBolt’s recent oped in the Seattle Times: “Job Growth Key to Budget Solution.

What we need are long-term solutions.

The question is how to create jobs while balancing the budget.

It all starts with jobs

When I was knocking on doors last year, every cul-de-sac had an empty house and other people, who were still in their homes, often told me they were just waiting for the call from the bank, waiting to be evicted because the banks had played casino with the economy and they were the losers.

Even those folks who have jobs and are mowing the lawns of empty foreclosed houses in the cul-de-sac to prevent crime and keep property values up are concerned. They might be next.

When I talk to small business owners, they say they need customers, customers and customers. Tax breaks do nothing when you you’re not making money.

Jobs mean small business owners have customers coming in the doors.

Jobs Now, Washington’s Future

That’s why a strong coalition of business and workers are coming together to work on a plan to create jobs – right now – while building a better Washington.

These will be private-sector jobs in every corner of the state, with an emphasis on hiring unemployed veterans, construction workers and young people – those hardest hit by the recession – to fix our schools, work in our forests and build projects that will benefit our state for generations.

Also, building new colleges – like the Gray Wolf Building going up at Everett Community College – helps give our state a brainpower edge. Fixing up state hatcheries puts fish in our rivers and brings people to Monroe to buy steelhead gear.

We will join this coalition in their work because jobs are our priority.

Governor Dan Evans did this in 1972, after the last great Boeing Bust. He called his plan Jobs Now, Washington’s Future and voters approved more than $2 billion in today’s dollars to fund the work.

Franklin Roosevelt led a similar effort to combat the Great Depression in the 1930s. Not only did people go back to work, they built parks, schools and structures like the Grand Coulee Dam that provided the infrastructure and electricity that powered our state’s economic recovery – and still work today.

FDR was a Democrat and Evans was a Republican — and they did the same thing. Because it’s smart. Because it’s not voodoo economics. When people are out of work, the best solution is to put them to work. Not theoretically — in reality. Right away.

Connecticut just did a similar jobs program. It passed with a single no vote in the House and Senate because they understood that when times are bad, you put aside party politics for the sake of your state and your country.

Evans told the truth. He said Jobs Now, Washington’s Future was “the most important program I have proposed in my seven years as governor.”

Dan Evans put people back to work and got Washington state back on its feet.

We can do it, too.

Construction workers in our state face a 30 percent unemployment rate. Post-9/11 veterans are at 12 percent unemployment.

Let’s get construction workers and jobless veterans back on the job, building a better Washington for our kids and grandkids.

Let’s boost local businesses by having people with new jobs spending their money at the Ace Hardware down the street and the flower shop downtown.

Let’s do the right thing and remember what Dan Evans and FDR did to bring Washington state – and America – back on our feet: create real jobs, right away, in every corner of this fine state.

Rep. Hans Dunshee (D-Snohomish) is a former small business owner and volunteer firefighter. He is chair of the Capital Budget Committee, which controls the state’s construction budget.