The 2016 legislative session officially ended last week – mercifully. Like all the sessions during Jay Inslee’s time in office, it ended only after going into overtime.
But, that’s not the only similarity with past sessions.
Like before, Inslee proved himself to be an ineffective leader who plays highly partisan, D.C.-style political games. And, like before, Democrats displayed their obsession with pleasing their special interests and raising taxes. In fact, this legislative session marks the fourth year in a row that Democrats proposed spending increases financed by tax hikes – even though government spending was already growing thanks to the economy.
Of course, these same Democrat who wanted higher taxes refused to actually vote on the tax hikes because they were afraid of the consequences.
This Throw Back Thursday, we’re commemorating the 2016 legislative session by taking a look at the winners and the losers.
Without further ado, the winners of the 2016 legislative session:
1. Taxpayers… for not having to pay new taxes.
Senate Republicans, once again, insisted on responsibility and sustainability. Due to their steadfast stance, the taxpaying public can rest easy knowing the supplemental budget does not contain new taxes. Apparently, no one informed Democrats that a supplemental budget is not just another opportunity to increase taxes. Despite Jay Inslee and House Democrats’ best efforts, Republicans walked away from negotiations having protected taxpayers from Democrats’ tax obsession.
2. Senate Republicans… for “basically getting everything they wanted in the budget.”
Republicans (once again) won again this legislative session and Democrats largely lost. As the Seattle Times recently pointed out, since Inslee became governor the Republicans (and the taxpayers) have —time and time again— come out as the overall winners and this legislative session was more of the same. House Democrats introduced a supplemental budget that proposed raising taxes and increasing spending by half a billion dollars. But, they didn’t get what they wanted thanks to Senate Republicans.
Senate Republicans also won by holding Inslee’s administration accountable for mismanagement and corruption. Senate Republicans fired Washington State Department of Transportation Director Lynn Peterson for her ongoing incompetency. That led to the voluntary resignation of Dan Pacholke as Department of Corrections (DOC) secretary due to the stunning controversy regarding the early release of prisoners over the last 12 years.
3. Voter-approved public charter schools… for being saved.
Due to the support of Republican lawmakers (and a handful of Democrats), the efforts of public charter schools supporters paid off. The state Legislature passed a bill that saves charter schools, despite the vicious attacks by Democrats.
Of course, public charter schools only needed saving after the Democrat-controlled State Supreme Court handed down its highly partisan (and controversial) decision declaring them unconstitutional last Labor Day weekend. Incidentally, it was a decision that the WEA-supported justices largely plagiarized from union writings.
Though Jay Inslee (in an act of cowardice) opted to allow a bill to become law without his signature, thousands of children (most of whom are unprivileged) and their families can rest assured that their schools will be there next year. And, that’s what truly matters.
Now for the losers of the 2016 legislative session:
1. Jay Inslee… for solidifying the fact that he is a weak “leader.”
For anyone questioning the full extent of Inslee’s ineffectiveness, the 2016 legislative should have removed all doubt. Inslee demonstrated his incompetent approach to governing with every major hurdle that legislators faced during this session. From saving voter-approved public charter schools, to fixing the I-405 tolling debacle, to developing a supplemental budget, Inslee acted as an obstructionist.
Inslee looked weak when Senate Republicans were forced to do his job for him by firing WSDOT Lynn Peterson for her incompetency. But, Inslee managed to make matters worse when he viciously attacked GOP leaders for doing the job for the sake of commuters.
Inslee even retaliated by canceling meetings with Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler (something he was later forced to backtrack on). By doing so, he injected his hyper-partisan, D.C.-style politics into an already tense political environment.
And, who could forget Inslee’s veto debacle? Rather than urge Democrat lawmakers to back off their ridiculous proposals in order to finish on time, 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. Thus, Inslee vetoed 27 bills, making state history in order to partially follow through on his threat.
Lawmakers were then forced to take time out of the special session to override Inslee’s vetoes — which only proved to be another blow to Inslee’s so-called “leadership.”
2. Speaker Frank Chopp… for losing his ironclad grasp over the House Democrat caucus.
When it finally came time to pass the budget, Chopp only managed to wrangle up a mere 44 Democrats to vote for the compromise plan. Why is that important? Well, it is the first budget vote that Chopp has failed to generate 50 or more Democrat votes for since he became Speaker 13 years ago.
Chopp spent the last 13 years positioning himself as arguably the most powerful Democrat in our state. Given his failure to unite his members behind the budget compromise, his power is (apparently) beginning to wane.
Democrats hold a 50-48 majority in the State House. That means a GOP majority in the House for the first time since 1998 is well within reach this year. In the coming months, it’ll be interesting to see if Chopp resumes his prominent role of helping fellow Democrats get reelected or if he will fade into the background.
3. I-405 commuters… for the failure to make substantive changes to the tolling debacle.
Unfortunately for commuters, Democrats proved unwilling to work with Republicans to implement practical changes to the I-405 tolling scheme. Rather, Democrats preferred to let working families to deal with the consequences of the failed experiment.
GOP Legislators Mark Harmsworth and Andy Hill proposed a bill that would have fixed the I-405 debacle. Though the bill passed Hill’s state Senate on bi-partisan vote, Democrat State Representative Judy Clibborn (chair of the House Transportation Committee) refused to even give Harmsworth’s bill a hearing in her committee. Her refusal was made more outrageous by the fact that the bill had enough votes to pass the state House.
Given the undeniable fact that the tolling scheme made traffic even worse on I-405, Inslee attempted to soothe the public’s outrage by proposing weak changes. Inslee’s changes failed to address the ultimate problem of congestion. In the end, it was his attempt to appear as though he is acting for the good of commuters after public backlash that could not be ignored.