Republicans and Democrats in the state Senate have reached a new budget deal that will finally allow lawmakers to wrap up the people’s business and go home. Last week, Senate Democrats frustrated fellow lawmakers, editorial boards and the general public by backtracking on a previous agreement and refusing to vote for the suspension of the Washington Education Association’s (WEA) money grabbing initiative, I-1351.
Senate Democrats made a new demand. Unless the Senate first passed a completely unrelated (but WEA-backed) bill that would water down high school graduation standards, Senate Democrats would blow a $2 billion hole in the state budget, which assumes a $2 billion reduction of spending for I-1351. In other words, Senate Democrats created a hostage situation. If Republicans would not go along with their effort to appease the WEA, the state budget would not be balanced.
The WEA-backed bill would not merely lower testing standards on high school biology tests (as reported in the media). It would lower testing standards across-the-board. Nevertheless, Senate Republicans were forced to work with Democrats’ demand. The agreement lawmakers reached would not eliminate the testing standards, but it would delay the requirement for high-school students to pass the biology exam for this year and 2016.
Lawmakers will vote on the deal today. The vote will allow legislators to wrap up session before the end of the week.
Senate Democrats are not exactly getting away with holding the budget—a result of months of negotiations—hostage. Their last-minute demand has tainted their image and left a bad taste in the mouths of onlookers, including multiple media outlets. Senate Democrats made it perfectly clear that their allegiance lies with the WEA and special interests, not the people.
This Throw Back Thursday, we’re taking a look back on the harsh words newspapers across the state had for Senate Democrats and their association with the WEA.
- The News Tribune: “Washingtonians last November chose not to let Democrats control the state Senate. After what happened in Olympia early Wednesday morning, it’s hard to quarrel with the voters’ verdict. On Tuesday, the Legislature appeared on the verge of major bipartisan achievements. …But after all of it had seemingly come together, the Senate’s minority Democrats suddenly threw a wrench into the gears, apparently at the behest of the state’s teachers union.”
- The Seattle Times: “Don’t cue the parade just yet. The whole state has to wait for the Senate Democratic leadership to line up. Disappointingly, that group, led by Minority Leader Sharon Nelson of Maury Island and Deputy Leader Andy Billig of Spokane, reneged on a hard-won budget deal contingent on delaying the implementation of Initiative 1351. Confoundingly, both stood by the governor and their House and Senate counterparts at a June 27 news conference to announce a deal — before working to undermine it… State senators should reflect on whether they are truly free and independent of the WEA, which for too long has wagged the dog in Olympia and is now impeding bipartisan progress on fixing the school system’s unconstitutional inequities. Then they need to go back to work and vote to defer I-1351 to finalize the budget work.”
- The Columbian: “As Senate Democrats last week blew a $2 billion hole in the just-approved state operating budget, they exposed the seamy underbelly of political gamesmanship, eschewing compromise and negotiation in favor of extortion. The result is a steaming mess for taxpayers… It is impossible to defend the action of Senate Democrats in failing to support suspension of the measure. Nobody wins from further delaying the process, save for Democrats who wish to pander to the Washington Education Association, which supports I-1351.”
- The Wenatchee World: “Undermining significant bipartisan accomplishments on the operating budget, using the impossible Initiative 1351 as leverage, only discredits the Senate Democrats. Suspending the initiative for four years is a critical part of the budget bargain. Fully funding the initiative was never a possibility, a fact known even before it barely passed last year. The holdouts say they only want attention for a bill to revamp mandatory testing and high school graduation requirements. If so, they choose a tantrum with consequences way out of proportion to their goal. They stand in the way of a budget that is in most ways an important accomplishment for the state and its people. They should step aside.”