Democrat Rep. Ross Hunter—the state House budget writer—spent some quality time blogging about why the state Legislature would likely extend into a special session—blaming state Senate Republicans, of course—and levy reform yesterday.
Here are Hunter’s main points, followed by much needed reality checks:
- On why budget negotiations between the House and Senate are stalled:
“I think it’s mostly about the different approaches the two sides take to the budget. The House Democrats look at the various categories of spending and make recommendations about what we think the state should invest in, then work back to figure out how much revenue we need based on that. This is a balancing decision, and lots of desired spending doesn’t get done in the budget proposal. The Senate Republicans make a decision that they won’t vote for taxes (except for roads) and try to deal with the huge increase in required K12 spending by cutting everything else and using a lot of one-time gimmicks. This results in many bad outcomes.”
Reality: What Hunter just described—using highly partisan and more than a little exaggerated terms—is the difference between a budget that raises taxes on working families to pay for unsustainable government growth (a spending package) and a budget that strives to live within the state’s means (an actual budget). House Democrats’ budget includes virtually every spending item pushed by their special interest supporters. Perhaps the most notable “omission” is the limitation of the Washington Education Association’s (WEA) class size reduction measure (Initiative 1351) to Kindergarten to 3rd grade… the same proposal made by Republicans. The real reason budget negotiations are stalled is because House Democrats refuse to vote on the new taxes they proposed, tax measures entirely necessary for the spending package.
- On House Democrats’ failure to properly address the second half of the McCleary decision: the unconstitutional use of local levies to fund teacher salaries:
“Four years ago I made a revenue-neutral proposal for a “levy swap” that would have addressed most of the problem. (The proposal is now out of date, but I leave it up because there are a lot of links to it on the web.) This week Sen. Bruce Dammeier, Superintendent of Public Schools Randy Dorn, and several Democratic Senators each made suggestions. I have a detailed proposal I’ve worked out that addresses most of the concerns addressed by each of the other groups as well, but I have not made it public. I will later this week just to have a reference point, but all of our actual proposals don’t actually help resolve the issue.”
Reality: Hunter has a proposal on a rather important piece of legislation, but he is only going to introduce it later this week… the last week before the scheduled closure of the 2015 legislative session (Sunday, April 26th). Ladies and gentleman, one of the many ways Democrats have stalled important action that has led to the necessity of a special session. It will be interesting to see what Hunter has come up with as far as levy reform—Jay Inslee chose to completely ignore the problem when he released his state budget. Senate Republicans released their plans for levy reform last week.