Thursday, June 13, 2013

Finger pointing . . .
In this post I shared the tug of war taking place in Olympia over finding common ground for a budget.  The publicity surrounding the inability to reach agreement during the first special session has resulted in the expected finger pointing.  This Crosscut piece does a nice job of sharing the finger pointing between the Governor, House, and Senate.  It starts off with the following words.

Olympia Democrats: "We've blinked enough in 2013-2015 budget talks. It's your turn to make some concessions."

Olympia Republicans: "We blinked way before you did. So pass our budget and all will be peachy-keen."

What we have learned is that there was little budget discussion during the special session between the key players.  Though there is little difference in the $33+ billion budget proposals, there are significant differences in how to pay for them.  As always, the issue of taxes and the gap between the Senate Majority Coalition and the House Democrats has proven to thus far be insurmountable.

Governor Inslee and the House Democrats point to the Senate Majority Coalition demands for action on policy bills before considering negotiations on tax and revenue issues as a major stumbling block.

Pointing to the stalled budget talks, Inslee claimed that "the Senate majority is trying to leverage our school children to pass its ideological agenda."

However to be fair to the majority coalition, one could argue that opposing a bill is an ideological stance as well.

Theoretically, both sides could wait for the 2014 session to tackle all their stalled policy bills. But the majority coalition would not have the leverage that it does now with the main budget and a potential government shutdown. 

The policy bills high on Majority Coalition list include the following as identified in the Crosscut article.
  • Calling a November referendum on whether to limit non-education spending to an amount linked to inflation and the state's population growth. This would essentially put a cap on health, social services and corrections spending in future years while funneling most extra money to education. 
  • Calling a November referendum on a bill to require principals and teachers to mutually agree when a teacher is assigned to a new school.
  • Lowering the age, to 40, at which people are eligible to receive lump sums in workers compensation settlements, plus other tweaking of the original bill. 
  • A bill to increase the maximum amounts and interests on payday loans.
Both the House Democrats and Senate Majority Coalition believe that they have made the majority of concessions and point fingers at the other party as the reason for not reaching agreement.  The chart below from a WASA publication describing the Governor's response to needing to call a second special session provides some insight into what each side has done in an attempt to reach resolution.  It is the Governor's perception of current reality showing what he believes to be more movement by the House Democrats.

The Senate Majority Coalitions responds with the following chart to show that they have made the most concessions and are the group in the right by letting go of a higher percentage of their reform bills than the House Democrats have on revenue.

For me, I've seen enough finger pointing and want to see resolution so that we can move forward with a clear understanding of our revenue picture.  I believe that the policy bills should wait for another day and fear that when they finally achieve resolution it will include a compromise that includes some of the above policy initiatives and perhaps others that are lurking below the surface that will impact our school system. 

All of this is unfolding under the threat of a government shutdown if a new budget isn't reached by the end of the biennium at midnight on June 30th.  Though both sides say they want to avoid this the question remains of how much one or both are willing to give up to keep the fiscal wheels of state government moving.

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