Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The 2012 legislative session ended March 8 with the promise of a special session beginning Monday, March 12. The last few months have been fast-paced with moments of great bipartisanship and times when both sides of the aisle could not find agreement. In the end, however, we all want what is best for the people we serve and the state.
It was really great that so many constituents were able to make it to Olympia to visit and share thoughts and solutions with me. I am really excited to head back home – even if it is just for a few days before we come back for special session. It’s always nice to see everyone and enjoy our communities. If you would like to meet with me or you need a speaker to give a brief legislative update at a meeting, please feel free to let me know. I try to make myself available to you as often as possible.
Below is this week’s update. I hope you find this informative. As always, I welcome your feedback!
In service to you,
What happened in the Senate last week?
I won’t bore you with all the “Olympia speak” on procedural floor motions, but will tell you that it was three brave members of the majority party in the Senate that stood alongside the minority party to create a philosophical majority to pass a balanced and sustainable budget without new tax increases and without any gimmicks with a vote of 25-24. The debate was passionate and, to me, refreshing. It’s a good reminder that what is good for the state is not a partisan issue. Neither party holds a monopoly on good ideas. Here are a few comments from Democrat senators who signed onto the Senate Republican budget plan:
- 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.”
Please note that all three of these legislators are from Western Washington. I say this because so many of you believe we’re “outnumbered” by people from the west side of the state. Recall that I’m always reminding you that we have a lot in common with our friends in Western Washington, and we want to work with them to develop the best solutions for our state.
I encourage you to read this column in the Tacoma News Tribune co-authored by Sens. Joe Zarelli and Jim Kastama. There is also a good article on Washington State Wire on the debate that you can read here.
With no end in sight due to the lack of agreement among majority party members, this maneuver broke the budget stalemate in the Senate. The majority party in the Senate admitted to reporters just prior to the budget debate they did not have enough votes to pass their budget. With time running out on the 60-day session, it was crucial the Senate act on a budget so that negotiations between the House and Senate could begin and a middle ground could be found to get us out of Olympia on time.
Special session begins March 12
I am disappointed that we are now headed into the fifth special session in the last two years. With the majority party holding the governor’s office and both the House and Senate, you would think that we would have less gridlock, not more. As I mentioned in the brief update on the Senate budget action above, a bipartisan group in the Senate finally ended the stalemate between the House and Senate budget negotiations, which is what started the budget talks. That action gave us at least a glimmer of hope that we could get out of here on time.
As far as the final day of action goes, there was a lot of handwringing by our colleagues across the aisle about which bills would run. We really could have been more productive, but we spent a lot of time waiting because they couldn’t get agreement among themselves on how to move forward. We did take action on the Senate budget that came to us. The House majority party offered a striking amendment that gutted the Senate compromise. That amendment included the $330 million late payment to schools, which I could not support. We offered an amendment that would have gotten rid of that “felony gimmick” as our Democrat State Treasurer Jim McIntire called it, but it was rejected by the majority party. Honestly, there were a lot of things we l
iked in their budget and many things that were unacceptable, but balancing the budget by “floating a check” to our schools is not a way to build trust with the public or build a sustainable budget.
The Senate Democrats don’t have enough votes for the budget that the House ultimately sent over. So, here we are…another special session. There is a great article in Washington State Wire wrapping up some of the last minute action that you can read here.
Finally, I will say this: Our colleagues across the aisle should have gotten to work on the budget the first day of session instead of dealing with issues that could wait until we solved the spending gap. I’m not saying that those issues weren’t important, but we would likely be finished with our work in Olympia and be headed home for good, instead of planning for another costly special session. Good solutions are nonpartisan. The issues we face are not Democrat or Republican. We need to solve them together through compromise, which only works if both sides come to the middle. I pledge to focus all my energy on this kind of solution and will update you on our progress.
Local student pages participated in final week of the regular legislative session
The 9th District team was fortunate to welcome two more student pages to Olympia this final week of session. Ali Tesch, a student at Freeman Middle School, and Holly Brown, a student at Gar-Pal Middle School, spent the week helping out in the State House of Representatives. They loved their experience. They told us that “getting close to government” was very interesting! Please alert young people you know between the ages of 14 and 16 about this opportunity for next year. Here is a link to information about the House Page Program you can share with parents and students. Ali and Holly were two of the highlights of my week.
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