Today is the start of this year’s legislative special session—a waste of time required because of state House Democrats’ various delay tactics, including their refusal to pass a complete budget and vote on the bi-partisan transportation packagethat Senate passed. With school districts across the state facing a budget-planning deadline in mid-May and a state government shutdown on the horizon at the end of June, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler has called on fellow lawmakers to wrap-up the special session by May 15.
Whether or not the state Legislature is actually able to get the people’s business done by May 15 is entirely up to Democrat House Speaker Frank Chopp and Jay Inslee. Both Democrat leaders have yet to put their extreme partisan interests aside and do their jobs by leading fellow party members and working out compromises with Republicans. Chopp and his gang continue to think this is still like the good ol’ days of pre-2012, when Democrats controlled everything in Olympia.
Here are three things House Democrats and Inslee must do in order to wrap-up the special session—and stop wasting taxpayers’ time and money—as soon as possible.
- Chopp must call for a House vote on the $1.5 billion in new taxes proposed by Democrat budget writers—tax measures entirely necessary to balance Democrats’ $39 billion spending package. Inslee, in turn, must publically urge House Democrat leaders to hold a floor vote on the new taxes.
Without passage of these key tax measures, the Democrats’ budget cannot be considered balanced and therefore there is nothing to negotiate on. At this point, House Democrats have passed nothing more than a wish list in the form of a $39 billion spending package. That’s 15% spending increase over the last budget—all to reward their major campaign donors with pay raises and place special interests ahead of public education funding.
Ultimately, it’s up to Democrats to prove they have the votes for the $1.5 billion in new taxes they say will fund their spending package. The means presenting a complete budget that actually pays for itself by passing the necessary tax measures. House Democrat leaders either know they do not have the votes to pass the tax hikes, or they fear the political ramifications. Either way, budget negotiations cannot continue without Democrats fulfilling their obligation to present a balanced budget. That means they must either call for a vote on the new taxes or admit they do not have the votes to pass the historic tax hikes and accept the Senate Republicans’ no-new-taxes, balanced budget.
For his part, Inslee cannot continue to obstruct budget negotiations with ridiculous threats. At the start of the talks, Inslee threatened to veto any budget that does not raise $1 billion or more in taxes. It’s time for Inslee to put aside his partisan interests and lead. He must stop adding to the already high tensions and help move negotiations forward by calling for House Democrats to vote on their taxes.
It’s put up or shut up time for Frank Chopp and his minions.
- House Democrats must compromise and pass the bi-partisan transportation package—a package Senate Republicans passed over one month ago.
Senate Republicans proved they are willing to make tough compromises in order to meet our state’s urgent transportation needs—their bi-partisan transportation package passed with the support of seven Democrats. Unfortunately, rather than make any compromises, Democrats continue to hold our state’s transportation needs hostage to their budget demands—i.e. higher taxes and spending.
House Democrats must accept the only reasonable path forward and let the people—or their chosen representatives—decide on their favored agenda items. For Democrats, that means accepting Republicans’ consumer protection provision that would oblige Inslee to bring his fuel mandate forward as legislation, not through an executive order—voters should not have to face an additional charge of $1 or more at the fuel pump just because the governor has environmental supporters to pay off. On the other hand, for Republicans, that means allowing Sound Transit to seek a $15 billion dollar tax increase via a ballot measure next year, instead of the $11 billion in their current plan.
House Democrats cannot continue to ignore the fact that Washington State needs a transportation package. Commuters and businesses require reliable transportation improvements, and they’ve waited long enough for the state Legislature to act. It’s time they accept the fact that any transportation package must be bi-partisan.
- Inslee must accept that he does not even have the support of members of his own party to pass his cap-and-tax scheme through the Legislature,and must drop efforts to try to jam into the budget negotiations.
Rather than calling for the state Legislature (particularly House Democrats) to focus on getting the people’s vital business done by passing a budget and transportation package, Inslee decided to inject a hyper-partisan issue into an already highly partisan debate: his extreme green agenda. Inslee renewed his call for the Legislature to consider his cap-and-tax agenda and demanded lawmakers place his environmental policies on the special session agenda.
Inslee spokesperson Jaime Smith recently told the press that “using a carbon charge as part of a levy reform solution is one of the ideas being developed by a group of lawmakers who are working behind the scenes to advance the governor’s cap-and-trade proposal.” Democrat Rep. Reuven Carlyle, chair of the House Finance Committee, backed Smith’s assertion when he referred to the idea of a implementing a cap-and-tax scheme to reduce the unconstitutional use of local levy dollars “a super-exciting idea.”
Despite his enthusiasm, Carlyle still appears to be in the minority on Inslee’s job-killing plan. Though Democrats have left Inslee’s cap-and-tax scheme on the table, they have thus far failed to step-up to support it. The truth is that Inslee could not even find enough Democrats willing to vote for his cap-and-tax scheme. For the sake of taxpayers’ time and money, Inslee must stop obstructing the Legislature with his demands, accept reality and move on.
And that’s it – three compromises, and the special session is over. Unfortunately, Frank Chopp and Jay Inslee seem content to hold their breath and hang out in Olympia with their special interest friends, instead of doing their jobs.