Kristiansen: Special session waste of taxpayers’ money
Rep. Dan Kristiansen says lack of leadership and squabbles within the House and Senate Democrat caucuses have unnecessarily led to a special session costing taxpayers in excess of $18,000 a day.
The Legislature ended its 60-day regular session March 11 without coming to an agreement on a supplemental budget plan that would close a $2.7 billion deficit. Democrats, who hold large majorities in both the House and Senate, and also control the governor's office, drafted budget proposals that each would include nearly $1 billion of tax increases. However, Kristiansen, R-Snohomish, says legislative Democrats have been fighting among themselves about which taxes to increase, while minority Republicans have been excluded from budget negotiations and waiting to vote on legislation.
“We had 60 days to resolve this budget mess. There is no good excuse for this Legislature to be in a costly special session. Republicans were ready from day one to roll up our sleeves, find efficiencies, and restructure the budget by setting spending priorities that included education, public safety and protection of vulnerable citizens. We also proposed our “Made in Washington” jobs plan to get people working again in the private sector. Unfortunately, our solutions were repeatedly rejected by majority Democrats, and we were shut out of the budget-writing process,” said Kristiansen, who serves as chairman of the House Republican Caucus.
“It became quite clear early on that the only solution the majority party was interested in was raising taxes. That's why, despite our protests during 10 hours of floor debate, they voted to gut Initiative 960 to make it easier to raise taxes by only a simple majority. Then they procrastinated until the final two weeks of session to write budget proposals, each which include $900 million of new spending and nearly a billion dollars in tax increases,” noted Kristiansen. “In the final days of the regular session, our Republican members waited hours upon hours to vote on legislation as Democrats were sequestered behind closed doors, fighting among themselves over which taxes to raise. Finally, time ran out without an agreement on a budget package.”
Seattle Times editorial writer Kate Riley documented the in-fighting in an article entitled, “Democrats turning on Democrats: There has got to be a better way.” She noted, “The Legislature appears headed into a special session because the House and Senate can't quite agree on the damage they want to do.”
On the final day of the regular session, Gov. Chris Gregoire called the Legislature back for a special session, beginning Monday, March 15. However, no floor action was scheduled until the following Tuesday.
“The first bill they brought out for a vote on the House floor was a measure (House Bill 2561) that would have the state borrow $861 million for energy retrofitting of schools. While saving energy may be a noble cause, why is the state digging itself into deeper debt by borrowing money when we have such a huge budget deficit?” asked Kristiansen. “It's estimated that to pay back this money with interest would cost taxpayers more than $1.5 billion over 25 years. That's about $63 million a year, which could fund all of our state parks, or nearly all of the school levy equalization dollars that are proposed to be removed from the budget. That's hundreds of permanent teaching jobs that would be lost in order to provide a select amount of jobs to construction workers for only 10 months, while taxpayers foot the bill for 25 years. It makes no sense, but that's the lack of vision that has defined both the regular and special sessions this year.”
Kristiansen said many citizens are angry the Legislature did not finish its work on time and have been calling and e-mailing his office.
“I share their frustration. I tell folks very clearly that partisan politics did not play a part in pushing the Legislature into a special session. Quite the opposite. We've been waiting because Democrats cannot agree among themselves. And we're continuing to wait for them during this special session. They've brought out only a handful of bills to vote on. The cost of four days of this special session, in which most lawmakers are waiting around while a few people are behind closed doors arguing the budget, would have paid for an entire year's salary of a teacher. So you bet, I'm frustrated,” said Kristiansen. “It's time to finish this special session, not with tax increases or putting our state deeper into debt, but by setting spending priorities and adopting policies that help private employers create jobs. It's time for the majority party to adjourn this session and go home before it creates any further damage.”
Although the governor recommended the special session be limited to seven days, it could last as long as 30 days.
###Washington State House Republican Communications