The Seattle Times recently asked the question: What took the state Legislature so long to wrap-up the people’s business? Last year, the legislative session went into three special sessions, dragging on until July. This year, it went 20 days into overtime.
The problem is clearly Democrats – the Democrat-controlled State House’s absurd tax-and-spend demands and Jay Inslee’s ineffective leadership. Here’s how the Times puts it:
“Democrats, who control the House and governor’s mansion, opened negotiations high, demanding new revenue. Republicans held the line on new taxes. They delay and delay before settling to the right of center, using budget gimmicks to paper over their differences…
“Gov. Jay Inslee, facing re-election this fall, tried to speed up negotiations with a historic spree of 27 vetoes at the end the regular session. It was utterly ineffectual and showed that the limits of Inslee’s power, even within his own Democratic Party. The Legislature overrode all 27 vetoes.”
Simply put, top House Democrat leaders once again failed to approach budget negotiations in good faith. As they have done in the past, they insist on making absurd demands from the start and then, after understanding that Republicans won’t give in, drag negotiations on unnecessarily.
During the 2015 legislative session, House Democrats wanted to burden Washington’s working families with over $1 billion in new taxes, including a new state income tax, in order to reward their million-dollar campaign donors, despite the fact that new revenue was entirely unnecessary to meet our state’s funding needs. Democrats further complicated the matter by refusing to actually vote on the tax hikes they demanded during budget negotiations.
And, just when everyone thought they could go home after reaching a budget agreement, Senate Democrats pulled out one last surprise in their never-ending mission to appease special interests. Senate Democrats backtracked on an agreement vital to the budget and refused to vote for the suspension of the Washington Education Association’s (WEA) money-grabbing Initiative 1351, unless the Senate first passed a completely unrelated (but WEA-backed) bill that would have watered down high school graduation standards. Eventually, Senate Democrats were forced to back down but not without consuming even more time.
This year was more of the same. House Democrats introduced a supplemental budget that proposed raising taxes and increasing spending by half a billion dollars. Apparently, no one told them that a supplemental budget not their opportunity to raise taxes and jack up spending. Oddly enough, Democrats even proposed a whopping $487 million in cuts to K-12 class size funding (a twisted effort to appease the WEA).
And, just like last year, when negotiations were drawing to a close, Democrats pulled a last minute stunt. According to a source, House Democrats reneged on compromises they previously agreed to make on a budget deal. The Freedom Foundation speculated that one of the Democrats’ major campaign donors, SEIU 775, prolonged negotiations with certain demands and Democrats were only too happy keep the negotiations going in an attempt to appease the union.
Presumably, Democrats believe that if they make a series of absurd demands (often in the form of tax increases) they’ll be more likely to get some of their demands in the negotiation process. But, pathetically enough, that strategy hasn’t been working out for them. As the Seattle Times points out, Republicans (and the taxpayers) have —time and time again— come out as the overall winners. Crosscut recently admitted:
“Collectively, the budget numbers appeared to represent at best mixed results for Democrats in Olympia — and basically a success for Republicans, who repeatedly drew hard lines on spending during the legislative session that started in January.”
Though Republicans have walked away saying, “a little less spending would have been nice,” it’s widely acknowledged that the GOP had “basically gotten everything they wanted in the budget.”
Republicans (once again) won again this legislative session and Democrats largely lost. But, the biggest loser of all is Jay Inslee. Our green governor only reinforced the fact that he is truly an ineffective and incompetent leader.
Last year, Inslee struck out on all of his top priorities, including a new state income tax on capital gains (strike 1), a new cap-and-tax plan to raise energy prices (strike 2), and jamming through a fuel mandate (by executive order, not legislative vote) to raise the price of gasoline (strike 3). Inslee even earned the nickname of “Gov. (Rodney) Dangerfield” because, as one lawmaker explained, our green governor is a “non-factor in what is going on and his ideas don’t get a lot of respect.”
In a desperate attempt to get his way in 2015, Inslee went so far as to threaten Republican lawmakers that he would veto any budget bill that did not raise taxes. Ultimately, lawmakers responded by booting him out of negotiations.
Nothing changed this year for Inslee. Inslee set a bad example when he released his supplemental budget plan prior to the start of the legislative session and called for tax increases to the tune of $101 million in the next fiscal year. Supposedly, that would cover the spending increases he proposed. Of course, except for House Democrats initially following his lead when they introduced their own tax-and-spend plan, Inslee’s budget proposal was ignored.
Desperate to try and prevent another special session under his watch, Inslee (once again) resorted to making veto threats. He issued a threat to veto all the bills on his desk should legislators fail 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. Inslee vetoed 27 bills, which only meant that legislators had to take time out of the special session to override his vetoes.
All in all, Democrats and Jay Inslee have had a sorry track record when it comes to getting what they want out of recent legislative sessions. That fact is bad for their special interest campaign donors, but oh-so-good for working families.