Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Governor lights a match . . .

I found this post interesting as the legislative session began on Monday.  It suggests that the short session will be played out with larger goals in mind such as control of the State Senate following next November's elections.

“This is a huge year for the state Senate,” explains Chris Vance, a former state lawmaker and Republican Party chair who often handicaps legislative races for

Vance predicts election year politics will play a big role in what happens in the Washington Senate over the next two months.

“Their minds are far more on November than they are on this 60-day session and so I think you’re going to see mostly just positioning, forcing the other guy to take bad votes and trying to set things up for election.”

This year just over half of the Washington Senate is up for re-election. But only a handful of those seats are actually in play. Democrats would need to pick up two seats and not lose any to win back control of the Senate. 

Though a reality of our governance system, it is disturbing that this plays out while there are important and difficult decisions to be made that impact public schools.  Then yesterday, Governor Inslee ratcheted up the potential for conflict by changing his mind on a teacher pay raise by saying he was adjusting his budget proposal to include $200 million new dollars for schools including a cost of living increase for teachers.  The response from Republicans was predictable and swift as covered in this Seattle Times article.

The GOP-led caucus that controls the Senate slammed the governor’s ideas, saying they would go nowhere in that chamber. Democrats control the House and the governor’s office.
Asked if more money is needed for education this session, Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom said, “No ... We already addressed the money issues this last time with over a billion dollars.”

It looks like the table is set for a continuation of the partisan fighting that characterized last year.  The Governor's proposal also calls for an increase to the state's minimum wage.  All of this on top of the Supreme Court directive and huge transportation issues creates layers of complexity making consensus and compromise very difficult to achieve.  What usually emerges from this is little money and more reforms and mandates.

The Governor's change of position on the cost of living increase was influenced by the recent Supreme Court directive I blogged about here.  From the Times article not all are in agreement with the sense of urgency the Governor is feeling.

Inslee, in his speech, said, “We need to stop downplaying the significance” of the state Supreme Court’s order, adding the justices wrote that “this case remains fully subject to judicial enforcement.”

But Republicans did not seem impressed.

“Their job is to be the judiciary branch, our job is to be the legislative branch,” said House Republican Leader Dan Kristiansen, of Snohomish. “While I appreciate their strong concerns, what I don’t appreciate is that it almost comes across that they want to do both our jobs. And if that’s what they want to do, let them run for the Legislature.”

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