Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We're in the final week of the 30-day special session. Despite no budget agreement in sight between the majority party in the House and the bipartisan philosophical majority in the Senate, we've been called back to Olympia to hold committee hearings on bills and possibly vote on legislation. There are two schools of thought at work here:
1) Even though budget negotiators are still far apart on a budget deal, they will be able to close the gap quickly (before the April 10 deadline) and we'll be voting on a final budget to close our estimated $1 billion shortfall.
2) Budget negotiations have reached a standstill and the majority party in the House has decided to engage in political posturing by giving the impression that actual work is being done (voting on controversial bills that don't have the support of House Republicans or the bipartisan philosophical majority in the Senate makes no sense with no budget agreement on the table).
I'm hoping for the first option but fear the second is more likely.
House Democrats released another budget yesterday that spends even more money than their first proposal. I won't go into the details, but suffice it to say, it is Dead On Arrival in the Senate (the Senate Republicans, along with a couple of Senate Democrats held a press conference shortly afterwards confirming they did NOT support the House Democrat budget).
In fact, the lead negotiator for the bipartisan group, Sen. Joe Zarelli, said that the latest budget proposal by House Democrats “takes us further apart than brings us together.” You can read more about his comments on the TVW Blog by clicking here.
Much of the problem lies with the lack of true reform that is coming from across the aisle. Unless we fundamentally change the way we do business in Olympia, we'll continue to see budget shortfalls for years to come. In fact, if we were to pass the latest budget proposal from the House majority party, we could be looking at another multi-billion budget shortfall during the next biennium! Dealing with the numbers is not enough. We must make substantial, meaningful government reforms. It's not enough to just get the job done – we have to get it done right! And until the majority party begins to negotiate in good faith, there's no telling when that will happen.
Here are a couple of recent media stories from around the state that I thought you might find interesting.
- State legislators must reform in full (Seattle Times editorial, April 4)
- House Speaker to blame for current budget standoff (Washington State Wire, April 3)
- House Democrats must embrace reforms for sustainable path (Seattle Times editorial, March 30)
- Legislators need to get this budget right (Seattle Times editorial, March 28)
I'll continue to keep you informed as best I can as we move forward. As always, please feel free to contact my office with any questions or concerns.