Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It's Day 19 of the special session. After being sent home for nearly a week and a half, lawmakers in the House have been called back to Olympia today. So maybe you're thinking the budget impasse among House and Senate Democrats is over? Well, not quite.
Here are bills we have voted on so far today:
- House Bill 2452/Senate Bill 6220 – State indebtedness/evidences
- House Bill 3014 – Sales tax deferral for rural county investment projects
- House Bill 3201 – Infant screening
- Senate Bill 6884 – Practice of counseling
- Senate Bill 6846 – Enhanced 911 emergency communications
Noticeably absent from that list is a resolution on the state budget. There is discussion behind the scenes that budget negotiators may be a bit closer to an agreement.
THE AGENDA: TODAY, NEXT FRIDAY, AND THEN?
Democrats who control the House set the agenda. Here's what we are being told.
“By now, everyone has heard that we will come into session and run bills this Friday, April 2. If all goes well, we may also be digesting a new revenue plan offered by the Senate. It is unlikely that we will take action on that plan or either of the two outstanding budgets (operating and capital) on that day. Under the current scenario, we will come back at the end of next week — possibly the 9th, 10th and 11th — to finish up, be done and get on with our lives. None of this is cast in stone and there are many hours of negotiation, drafting of amendments, caucus and floor action between now and then, so these dates may slip a bit one way or another. The one thing we know for sure is that we must Sine Die (again) at midnight on the 13th, and we hope that we can be finished well before that.”
Barbara Baker, chief clerk of the House of Representatives – E-mail on March 31, 2010
BLOWING IN AND HEADING OUT
Some Eastern Washington lawmakers have driven eight hours or more across the state to vote today on a few bills and then they will immediately be heading back home for Easter weekend. A large storm is blowing in today and is expected to dump up to two feet of snow in the Cascades, making driving over the passes treacherous. The House remains in session through this afternoon, and that means some of those lawmakers who have traveled long distances will be heading back over the passes through the storm this evening to be back with their families for the Holy Weekend observance.
As we wait this afternoon, House Democrats are now behind closed doors discussing the latest tax package.
NO EXCUSE FOR THIS
Frankly, it's very frustrating. This Legislature had ample opportunity to finish its business within the allotted 60 days of the regular session. Unfortunately, egos among majority House Democrats who want to raise business and occupation taxes, and majority Senate Democrats who have decided they want to raise state sales tax, pushed the Legislature into an expensive special session at your expense. And it appears they may take the full constitutional 30 days of the special session because, as House Democrat Majority Leader Lynn Kessler noted, neither side wants to “blink.”
Most unfortunate is they've completely set aside any notion of reforming the budget, setting spending priorities of education, public safety and protecting the most vulnerable, and resisting tax increases – all solutions that my Republican colleagues and I have brought to the table, but have been rejected. Instead of cutting spending, it's the same old business in Olympia: increase taxes to pay for expansion of government. Tax increases will only send our state deeper into a recession, resulting in more job losses, and huge state budget deficits into the next decade. But they don't want to hear that.
So while Republicans are locked out of the budget talks, majority Democrats who control the Legislature remain at loggerheads – and you're paying for it: about $14,000 to $18,000 a day!
A BUDGET AGREEMENT? OR NOT. . .
Hopefully we will hear more about a budget agreement by next week. Last Friday, Olympia reporter Austin Jenkins noted in his blog that the Senate may be showing some signs of softening up on its insistence of a state sales tax increase. However, last night Democrat Sen. Ed Murray said Senate Democrats are not backing off. . .
“Yeah, that's not accurate,” said Murray. “I'm the revenue guy in the Senate. [The sales tax increase] is still in play. We still don't have an agreement. As of 6 p.m. tonight, the sales tax is very much in play in various Senate [revenue] proposals.”
So it looks like Democrats remain at an impasse over their billion dollar tax increase proposals and a go-home deal is not anywhere close at hand.
TAX INCREASES ARE NOT THE SOLUTION
In the meantime, my Republican colleagues and I will keep reminding the majority party that we can balance this budget without tax increases and without eliminating essential services, by setting priorities of government, and providing policies that will retain and create jobs in the private sector.
As Senate Republican Leader Mike Hewitt noted, instead of discussing which taxes to raise, Democrats in the House and Senate should use the special session to find ways to make Washington more business friendly. “Employers should be viewed as economic partners and job creators, not as piggy banks to fund new government spending,” he added.
I invite you to use the toll-free legislative hotline to share your thoughts with the governor, House speaker and Senate majority leader. The number is 1-800-562-6000. When on the line, be sure to specify who it is you want to receive your message.
I'll continue to keep you informed as I know more. I also encourage you to forward this e-mail update to others. Thank you!
It is an honor to serve and represent you!
In your service,