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You Too Can Balance the State Budget - Or Can You?

March 23, 2009

Seattle, WA - Just how hard is it to balance the Washington State budget? You may have a little more sympathy for what state lawmakers are going through this session, if you play an online game developed by Fuse Washington. The online advocacy group created "YouBudget" to allow players to add revenue, cut programs and learn the potential consequences of each action.

Cheryl Murfin, Fuse Washington communications director, says it's simple enough to figure out how to play the game, but as you decide what services to cut and whose taxes to raise, winners are scarce. There's a very serious purpose behind the fun, she adds.

"Part of the reason we want people to do this is so they can get closer to understanding it's not just a high-level political conversation - these cuts really do affect people. And our lawmakers need some guidance about that from the public they serve."

Playing the game is only half the job, Murfin says. Fuse Washington hopes players will let their lawmakers know how they would balance the real state budget.

The game is at www.yuobudget.org or at www.FuseWashington.org. What you'll see on the screen is a scale. On one side are gold bars representing various sources of state revenue. On the other side are expense categories listing programs and services government provides. Sliders let you adjust the amount of money being raised or spent. Bringing the two sides into balance with a zero deficit is the goal.

Murfin says the group had a hard time deciding whether to call it a game or a tool.

"As you add more revenue, the deficit number goes down. If you cut programs, the deficit number goes down. If you add benefits for someone, the deficit number goes up. Literally, you are balancing the budget, and you’re watching it on the screen."

If you hit on a solution, a lot of folks in Olympia will want to hear about it!


Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA