Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The 60-day 2012 Legislature has adjourned, but because lawmakers did not finish their work on time, we're heading to a special session. It looks like this will be a “rolling” special session where only the budget negotiators will be called to Olympia and once a budget agreement is reached, the rest of us will be called in to vote.
I can't tell you how disappointed I am that we're once again in a special session – the fifth “special session” in the last two years! Taxpayers should not have to foot the bill ($12,000 – $16,000 per day of special session) for the lack of leadership in Olympia.
There is plenty of blame to go around for the Legislature's lack of action. The truth is, our only real responsibility this year was to pass a budget that solved our state's continuing budget shortfall. Many of my colleagues and I wanted to get to work on this at the very beginning of session. But instead, we spent much of our time dealing with extremely divisive and contentious social issues that distracted lawmakers and whittled away the time.
Some of you have asked me about what happened in the Senate during the last week of session and how that has possibly led to our special session. Some are trying to blame Senate Republicans for the Legislature's failures. But please, don't believe what some on the other side of the aisle are saying about the special session being the fault of the minority party. When three Senate Democrats joined with Senate Republicans to take control of the Senate floor and pass a truly bipartisan budget, I believe it was a true testament of how our system in the Legislature is supposed to work. It represents a philosophical majority, not a partisan majority, and what I believe Washingtonians truly want from their citizen Legislature.
The simple truth is this: one-party control in Olympia has been used to getting its way for a long time and lost its composure when something didn't go its way. I applaud the courage of these independently-minded Senators who put meaningful reforms and the views of their constituents above partisan politics. They have been taking some heat for not being “team players,” but that analogy only applies if your “team” is your political party. They believe, as do I, that your “team” is the people you were elected to represent.
Here are some of the comments they made last weekend after they helped pass their budget:
- Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Bellevue: “Today I stood with a bipartisan group of legislators to support an operating budget and a series of government reforms that will put our state on a strong fiscal footing … Since before this legislative session began, the message from my constituents has been loud and clear. Another budget that is unsustainable, relies upon accounting gimmicks and sets our state up for a perennial deficit is simply unacceptable.”
- Sen. Jim Kastama, D-Puyallup: “The status quo is that we come back every single year and we cut, cut, cut … There is a time to campaign for what you want and there is a time to govern with what you have.”
- Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch: “…it gives the conservative voice a chance to negotiate … We have to reduce our spending. That's what families are telling me in the 35th District. They have got to live with what they have and they want to see government do that as well.”
The Senate Democratic supplemental operating budget was introduced with only 9 days left in session. And, after committee hearings and arm-twisting by their leadership, still did not have the 25 votes needed to pass out of the chamber. This was problematic because the House and Senate cannot begin the conference process, in which both chambers come together to reconcile differences, until an official budget is passed from each side. The bipartisan Senate budget ensured that the conference process did not begin too late.
This special session is simply because House and Senate Democrats did not compromise and ultimately address the concerns of three of their own members – Sens. Tom, Kastama and Sheldon.
Here are a few quotes from the media that I wanted you to see:
“The people of Washington aren't looking for a budget that cuts more than necessary, nor a budget that saves programs by borrowing from the future. They want a budget that spends the revenue the state has, starting with things like public safety, education and so on. They want a sustainable budget, meaning that state government won't start the next budget period in another financial crisis.” – Editorial, Seattle Times, 3/7/12
“The main virtue of the Republican plan: It would put the brakes on efforts by the Democrats to pay for tomorrow what the state cannot afford to pay for today. Pushing $330 million in school payments into the next biennium, as proposed in the Democrats' Senate budget, would be irresponsible. The economy may be recovering, but an upturn in revenues that would make the state whole on the delayed payment is more hope than substance.” – Editorial, Spokesman-Review, 3/6/12
“Majority Democrats seemed to be counting on an economic recovery to come along and magically fill a $1 billion budget hole. Even if an improving economy bails out the budget for the current biennium, their proposals did little for the long-term fiscal health of the state budget.” – Editorial, Yakima Herald-Republic, 3/4/12
I'll try to keep you updated as best I can as we move forward throughout the special session. Thanks again for reading my e-newsletter. And feel free to contact my office with any questions or concerns.