Be wary: Election promises often made, often broken

For the most part, we believe that candidates run for office because they are passionate about representing their constituency.

And we believe, for the most part, that when a would-be elected official puts forth an idea on the campaign trail, it's because he or she really thinks it will work.

In other words, we think most politicians mean well.

However, we've been sitting across the table from those seeking office and listening to their promises and pledges long enough to know when candidates are running for office, no matter how well intentioned they are, sometimes those promises are just plain out of reach.

For example, Gov. Chris Gregoire recently criticized both Rob McKenna's and Jay Inslee's plans for balancing the budget. Without mincing any words, she said they were both "dead wrong."

So we asked her about it.

Both gubernatorial hopefuls want to achieve a balanced budget by cutting the fat. That sounds good, but Gregoire pointed out that the Legislature has been cutting fat for several sessions now, and what's left is pretty lean.

Many taxpayers don't want to believe it, but that doesn't make it less true.

The possibility of raising revenues does not make for promising campaign fodder, so the candidates are left to talk about cuts.

More importantly, the new governor doesn't have the final word on the budget. That's the Legislature's job.

Our next governor will propose a budget. It will be rejected, rehashed and reworked. Finally, under the pressure of a deadline and after much partisan bickering, the Legislature will bring the governor a budget, and he'll sign it.

For certain, it won't be the same budget he proposed.

This phenomenon of campaigns run on fanciful -- and undeliverable -- promises goes way beyond the governor's race.

Candidates upstream and down have the same problem. Either they don't fully understand the complexity of the challenges they face, or the solutions they present are beyond their reach.

It's not unlike the middle school student body president who promises to put an Xbox in every classroom and free candy in the vending machine.

So here's a word to the wise. Be dubious of all campaign promises.

If the solution to any problem was that easy, it would have been fixed by now. There is always, always, something more to consider.

And to the candidates: Be careful what you promise. When you don't -- or can't -- live up to what you say you will do, it makes the entire democratic process look bad.