Today, state lawmakers will resume budget negotiations… in Jay Inslee’s office. When our green governor called a second special session last week, he criticized lawmakers for failing to reach a deal then ordered them to kick-off a new round of negotiations with daily meetings office.
Of course, last time Inslee called lawmakers into his office for budget “negotiations,” he ended up obstructing the process by threatening to veto any budget that does not raise taxes. Inslee’s ultimatum was a far cry from his no-new-taxes campaign pledge. Then again, considering the source, Inslee’s rather sizable about-face should come as no surprise.
During the closed-door meeting in question, Inslee also demanded lawmakers fully funding state employee pay raises, which he negotiated with union executives in secret at a cost of nearly $1 billion to taxpayers. Additionally, Inslee said he would not “accept borrowing from the state capital budget, vague “efficiency” savings, nor sign any tax cut” until his demand is met.
Prior to the start of the last special session, Inslee added to budget tensions by accusing lawmakers of failing to do anything for the environment. Inslee called on lawmakers to make his extreme “green” agenda—specifically his cap-and-tax scheme—one of their top priorities despite the threat of an impending state government shutdown if the state Legislature fails to pass a budget by June 30. Inslee, in typical fashion, placed his interests ahead of Washingtonians.
Inslee now appears to be changing his tune by attempting to appear as an aide rather than an impediment to the negotiation process. By calling for daily budget meeting at his office and for lawmakers to find a “middle-ground,” Inslee is attempting to leave behind the player-on-field role and assume the role of negotiator-in-chief. However, his call for daily budget negotiation meetings in his office is, simply put, a show. As GOP state Sen. Joe Fain recently put it, our green governor has thus far acted like a “cheerleader for the left” in budget talks. Until Inslee takes back his new taxes and state employee pay hike ultimatums, Republican lawmakers cannot take him seriously as a referee.
House Democrats made a small, yet significant step, by amending their budget proposal to (among other changes) eliminate the increase in part of the state business-and-occupation tax. It’s the first sign that Democrats may—at last—come to the realization that, given the sizeable increase in state revenue—new taxes are not needed to meet our state’s funding obligations. Unfortunately, Democrats have yet to eliminate the state capital gains income tax from their proposal.
As Shift has stated, the state Legislature will be able to adjourn—and avoid a state government shutdown—once Democrats (including Inslee) realize their tax increases are unnecessary and work with Senate Republicans to pass a state budget. As for Inslee, given his sorry track record as a leader, lawmakers appear better off without his obstructive involvement.