Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The 2016 regular legislative session began Jan. 11 with a bang of the gavel. It ended last night with a fizzle, as most lawmakers were out the door by about 8 p.m. before the closing resolutions were adopted.
There were not the usual Sine Die ceremonies, primarily because legislators knew they would soon be back in special session to eventually find resolution on a state supplemental operating budget. Instead, most people around the Capitol tuned in to the governor's press conference on TVW about 10:30 last night to see what the governor would do.
Special session called as governor vetoes bipartisan bills
As expected, Gov. Jay Inslee called an immediate special session, effective as of 9:30 last night. What was not expected is that he followed through with an earlier threat, vetoing 27 of 37 Republican and Democrat-sponsored Senate bills on his desk because a supplemental budget had not been passed by the final day of the 2016 session.
“I recognize this is perhaps the largest single batch of vetoes in history. None of these vetoed bills were as important as the fundamental responsibility of passing a budget,” said Inslee. “I continue to hope legislators will focus on negotiations and reach agreement as quickly as possible.”
A governor who divides, not facilitates negotiations
How disappointing that the governor would act in this manner! Previous governors would have brought opposing sides into the room and would have acted as a facilitator to bring them together on a compromise budget. Not this governor. Instead, Gov. Inslee has angered Republicans and Democrats alike, and stakeholders who spent countless hours working to get their bills through the process. Leaders don't look to punish, they look for solutions. The governor's tantrum is not helping the negotiation process.
My Department of Early Learning reform bill remains intact, for now
Fortunately, the governor has not yet chosen to act on House bills, including House Bill 2511. This is a measure I authored that will help keep quality child care more affordable for working families by removing an Department of Early Learning rule that required separate day care teachers for five- and six-year olds, depending on whether or not they are enrolled in school. This agency rule had no demonstrated benefit to children and resulted in raising the cost of child care. The measure passed the House and Senate and has been delivered to the governor.
Gov. Inslee has not ruled out more vetoes. It's my hope cooler heads will prevail as we work toward approval of a supplemental budget.
Why is the Legislature going into special session?
Last year, after six months of negotiations between House Democrats and Senate Republicans, a two-year state operating budget agreement of $38 billion in spending was approved with a bipartisan vote. That budget is expected to pay for operations of the state through June 30, 2017.
This year, our primary duty as a Legislature is to adopt a supplemental operating budget. A true supplemental operating budget makes midcourse, minor adjustments and pays for emergencies. Unfortunately, House Democrats are the only caucus talking about not having a supplemental operating budget. House Republicans, Senate Republicans, Senate Democrats and the governor all want a supplemental operating budget.
House Democrats hold up the process
Like last year, House Democrats are negotiating with money that doesn't exist without $120 million in tax increases that they have proposed — which they don't have enough votes among themselves to pass.
Other problems that exist with House Democrats' approach include:
- They use the “Rainy Day Fund” for non-emergencies, which would leave our state vulnerable for the inevitable economic downturn;
- They don't account for $487 million for K-3 class-size reduction;
- They don't address failures at the Health Care Authority and Western State Hospital; and
- They don't honor the important four-year budget outlook — a bill that many of them voted for.
There's no reason to hold onto unreasonable budget positions which rely on tax increases and would force the Legislature into a lengthy overtime in a supplemental budget year. We need a true supplemental operating budget — one that does NOT raise taxes and makes only minor adjustments to our two-year operating budget and pays for emergencies, such as the state's wildfires. It's my hope we can get there soon — within the next few days, adjourn and go home.
There were many during this short 60-day session. Here are a few noteworthy accomplishments:
- Public charter schools were saved – Senate Bill 6194
- Approved a supplemental transportation budget which included $300,000 from existing revenue for initial environmental permitting and design costs for reconstruction of the bridge trestle on the Chelatchie Prairie short line railroad – House Bill 2524
- Washington State Patrol recruitment, retention and pay raises – House Bill 2872
- Parent to Parent Program for parents of individuals with developmental disabilities – House Bill 2394
- Held WSDOT Secretary Lynn Peterson accountable for the failures of the state agency.
Local student helps in the House
It was my pleasure to sponsor and host Justin Lindsay as a legislative page this week. Pages assist legislators by delivering messages and documents to lawmakers in their offices, committee rooms, and in the House Chambers during floor sessions. Justin is a student at Ridgefield High School and is the 15-year-old son of Justin and Jennifer Lindsay of Ridgefield.
For more information about the House page program, go here.
"Protecting life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness!"