This Throw Back Thursday, we are taking a look back on how decades of Democrat partisan control has put our state inthe position we are in now… and how Democrats are still refusing to clean up the mess they have made.
Democrats are used to getting their own way on the state budget. They have controlled at least one house of the Legislature in 29 of the last 31 years – and had complete control of the Legislature in 14 of those years. And, a Democrat governor has signed every state budget since 1985.
That’s why Democrats have been able to grow the size of state government at the expense of education, spending two dollars for bigger government for every new dollar of education funding as budgets have grown over the last three decades. As a result, the state Supreme Court demanded (again) that the state Legislature fulfill its constitutional obligation to fully fund our public schools in the McCleary decision handed down in 2012.
It’s also why Democrats have been able to use higher education as their go-to cash cow, leeching off students and middle-class families in order to pay for their bigger government agenda. As a result, students pursuing a higher education have faced an exponential growth in tuition rates while Democrats have run the state for the last generation.
And, it’s why Democrats have been able to deplete needed transportation improvement funds by mandating the state charge sales tax on its own construction projects, redirecting gas-tax money into the general fund in order to use it for… their bigger government agenda. The purpose of this scheme is to evade a constitutional amendment (passed by Washington voters) that restricts fuel taxes for transportation purposes.
Unfortunately, Jay Inslee and top state House Democrats—led by Speaker Frank Chopp—refuse to recognize that, this time around, they cannot get their complete wish list by raising taxes on working families. Thanks to the Republican-controlled state Senate, Democrats cannot push forward another irresponsible, unsustainable spending package that meets their special interests supporters’ every whim.
Republicans have already passed a complete budget that meets our state’s funding obligations—particularly as defined by the McCleary decision—without raising taxes. It is a budget that truly prioritizes education. It even proposes to make college tuition more affordable to Washington’s middle class families—a plan Democrats oppose.
House Democrats have passed nothing more than a rough draft in the form of a $39 billion spending package—a a 15% spending increase over the last budget that, once again, rewards their major campaign donors and places those special interests ahead of public education funding.
House Democrats refuse to actually vote on their favorite tax measures—new taxes they proposed in their “budget”—necessary to fund their spending plans and complete their budget. And, in a far cry from his no-new-taxes campaign pledge, Jay Inslee has threatened to veto any budget that does not raise taxes – including his favorite, a state income tax on capital gains.
As Shift previously reported, either Chopp knows he does not have the support among members of his own party to pass his $2.4 billion in new taxes, or House Democrat leaders lack the political courage to actually vote on their tax proposals. Either way, House Democrats’ refusal to do their jobs has stalled budget negotiations. So it appears the 2015 legislative session, scheduled to adjourn this Sunday, will enter into at least one special session at the taxpayers’ expense.
Making matters worse, House Democrats also have yet to act on the bi-partisan transportation package the state Senate passed more than a month ago. Rather than make necessary compromises, Democrats continue to hold our state’s transportation needs hostage to their budget demands. Senate Republicans proved they are willing to make tough compromises in order to meet urgent transportation needs—their bi-partisan transportation package passed with the support of seven Democrats.
House Democrats must do the same by letting 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.
Shift said it before and will continue to say it until the end of the 2015 legislative session: Speaker Frank Chopp and Jay Inslee must accept the reality that Democrats no longer exclusively control Olympia. Chopp cannot continue to expect the pre-2012 state of affairs, where he and his fellow Democrats got every agenda item they pushed forward. Inslee cannot govern as if Democrats control both houses of the state Legislature. Since 2013, there has been a state Senate led by fiscal conservatives that are committed to passing a state budget that lives within our means.