Jay Inslee referred to the current special legislative session as an “unfortunate trend.” But, as Shift has pointed out, Inslee has presided over as many special sessions in less than one term as former Governor Christine Gregoire did during two full terms.
So, if there is any trend going on, it’s safe to say that it is Inslee’s inability to provide leadership.
Inslee demonstrated his ineffective (and highly incompetent) approach to governing with every major hurdle that legislators faced during the regular session. From saving voter-approved public charter schools, to fixing the I-405 tolling debacle, to developing a supplemental budget, Inslee’s only contribution was as an obstructionist.
While the bill to save public charter schools managed to pass (albeit at the last minute), Inslee sat back and said nothing. The charter school fix passed the state Senate in January. If Inslee had bothered to take a position, urging Democrat lawmakers to back the bill, the issue could have been handled sooner, instead of taking up valuable time in the last few days of the session.
Inslee could have called on House leaders to vote on public charter schools, saving time and energy. Instead, in an apparent effort to appease his million-dollar donors at the Washington Education Association (WEA), he remained silent and demonstrated that he is more concerned with his campaign cash and his donors’ partisan-driven agenda than with helping underprivileged children.
Fixing the I-405 tolling debacle is another issue that took more time than was necessary. Again, Senate Republicans proposed and passed a bill to fix the scheme early on. House Democrat leaders (especially Rep. Judy Clibborn) dragged their feet and, ultimately, blocked the bill from even being heard in committee.
Inslee only made matters worse. When Senate Republicans fired Washington State Department of Transportation Director Lynn Peterson for her incompetency, Inslee viciously attacked GOP leaders. He retaliated by canceling meetings with Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler (something he was later forced to backtrack on). By doing so, Inslee injected his hyper-partisan, D.C.-style politics into an already tense political environment.
Finally, when it came to settling on a supplemental budget, Inslee proved a hindrance rather than a leader. Inslee set a bad example when he released his plan prior to the start of the legislative session and called for tax increases to the tune of $101 million in the next fiscal year. Supposedly, that would cover the spending increases he proposed.
When it came to House Democrats’ turn to propose their supplemental budget plan, they followed Inslee’s lead (as they did last year). Apparently, no one informed Inslee or House Democrat leaders that supplemental budgets are not opportunities to raise taxes and jack up spending – they are only meant to tweak the two-year budget and address emergencies.
Rather than urge Democrat lawmakers to back off their proposals, Inslee issued a threat to veto all the bills on his desk should legislators fails to agree on a supplemental budget that raised taxes before the scheduled end of session.
True to the lack of respect that legislators of both parties have for Inslee, his threats were ignored. Inslee vetoed 27 bills. It probably is not a coincidence that, true to our green governor’s hyper-partisan leadership style, all of the vetoed bills originated in the state Senate controlled by Republicans.
Of course, all Inslee did by vetoing the bills was to challenge legislators to take time out of the special session to try and override his veto or to reintroduce/re-pass them.
In the end, Inslee only has himself to blame for the latest special session. As Shift has pointed out again and again, he likes to think of himself as a “player on the field”, rather than as an honest broker. It’s due to his failed, hyper-partisan approach to leadership that lawmakers will (once again) wrap-up the people’s business with another special session.