Democrat lawmakers refused to do their jobs and pass a complete budget. As a result, the state Legislature has been forced into a special session. If Democrats keep up their tactics and prevent lawmakers from passing a budget by June 30, they will force the state government into a shutdown—if their attitude is any indication, that’s exactly what Democrats want to see happen.
Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler explained the circumstances leading up to the special session—caused by Democrats’ delay tactics that risk the Olympia equivalent of the nuclear option (a state-government shutdown)—in a recent blog post. Schoelser,
“Last week, when there was still a chance for us to finish our business in Olympia on time and adjourn this weekend, we were flabbergasted by an argument we heard from our Democratic colleagues in the House. As budget negotiations started, they said they should not be required to vote for a $1.5 billion tax increase they have proposed. If they took that vote, they said, we might criticize them for it.
“And since our side was unlikely to support an enormous tax increase, they said they couldn’t see any point in voting for one either. When we told them we couldn’t take them seriously, they walked out of the room…
“I hope the entire state can see how absurd our colleagues’ excuses are. Because if things continue on this course, in a little over two months we are going to be facing a crisis Washington state has never seen. We must pass a budget by June 30 or state government begins shutting down the next day, placing our most vulnerable citizens at risk, forcing massive furloughs, risking the state’s credit. To us it seems a political bargaining tactic that holds our state’s 7 million citizens as hostage.
“Of course we would say a thing or two if our friends ever dared take that vote. They are suggesting the biggest tax increase in state history. We think it is wholly unnecessary; we have passed a complete budget that proves it. But if they truly believe their position has merit, they ought to be willing to defend it. This is the way budget negotiations have always proceeded. Each side votes for its proposal and then we talk. I think they understand this very clearly, and the excuses we have been hearing are for show.”
Democrats’ refusal to do their jobs and pass a complete budget is not the only indication that they are not concerned about the prospect of a government shutdown. Schoelser points out that Democrats have been “offering hints they will take things to the wire to gain advantage at the bargaining table” since the start of the 2015 legislative session. Schoelser,
“Ross Hunter, the House Appropriations chair, said when the session started that he had purchased a six-month gym membership in town – even though he lives in King County and the session was supposed to end this coming Sunday. Last month Gov. Jay Inslee directed state agencies to begin planning for a shutdown. And there was the curious meeting that took place in the governor’s office two weeks ago, when Inslee told legislative leaders he wants a billion-dollar tax hike, or else he won’t sign the budget.”
So, what exactly do Democrats hope to get out of their delay tactics? Schoelser writes that, though those working in Olympia know it is Democrats who are delaying negotiations, Democrats are banking on the public’s tendency to place blame for government shutdowns on Republicans. Of course, you can count on Democrats and their loud far-left supporters trumpeting that narrative.
Democrats’ delay already threatens school districts’—which face a budget-planning deadline of May 15—ability to develop responsible budgets. Without clear direction, writes Schoelser, “they must send out pink slips to teachers and other employees.” Lawmakers should be working to complete their jobs on time and, at all costs, avoid a government shutdown. Unfortunately, Democrats appear to be preparing their message for just that. Schoelser,
“You can follow the breadcrumbs, all right, straight to a government shutdown. I understand why some might think the pain and wreckage is worth it. This year’s fight isn’t just about a tax increase, but also about a return to the free-spending ways that prevailed before the recession. The battle also reflects the long-term goal of many on the other team to tax a greater share of the state’s personal income. I think they will have a difficult time winning that argument through ordinary means, and that is exactly as it should be. In the meantime the state has a right to expect both teams to fully engage in negotiations, play by the rules and behave responsibly. When this happens we can get the job done. Our side has already done its part, and we look forward to the day our friends do theirs.”