Friday, March 02, 2012

Republican Coup Advances Common Sense Budget in Washington State Senate

Maybe, just maybe there is a ray of hope for a little fiscal sanity in Olympia, Washington this evening. Led by Senator Don Benton (R 17th), a rare procedural move was put forth with the help of three Democrat Senators, Tim Sheldon of Potlach, Rodney Tom of Medina and Jim Kastama of Puyallup that let the minority Republicans seize the floor, allowing any bill to be pulled to the floor, even those that haven’t had a public hearing.

Several bills the Democrats wanted passed immediately were cast aside as Republicans brought their budget plan to the floor, which is now moving towards approval.

Remaining Democrats tried in vain to attach 8 amendments, all 8 being defeated.

Senator Ed Murray (D. 43rd) is livid being out maneuvered as he has been. “This is an incredible abuse of power. And considering what my party and myself as chair was willing to do ... this is the payback. This is the response,” the Olympian quotes Murray as saying

The Republican budget plan has $251.5 million more for K-12 education in it compared to what Senate Democrats proposed.

Senate GOP Leader Mike Hewitt (16th) says, “It’s very hard for me to listen to complaints about short notice. We’ve been down here since December, trying to work together, exactly like we did last year, and we had absolutely no cooperation whatsoever – none. Joe (Zarelli) has presented idea after idea and absolutely none of them were accepted. So we have chosen to take this method.”

The Columbian quotes Democratic governor Christine Gregoire saying, “Where’s the transparency? This is not how we do business in Washington State. It hasn’t seen the light of day. The public hasn’t been able to say a word.”

We cannot forget how she has not been a “transparent” governor or how she and the Democrat majority in Olympia have snowballed over nearly any Republican efforts to return some fiscal sanity to the state.

Erik Smith of the Washington State Wire informs us Senate Democrats’ Effort to Pass a Partisan Budget Results in Takeover From the Middle as we see that Senate Democrats tried to shut out minority Republicans and moderate Democrats out of the budget writing process.

Sen. Jim Kastama (D 25th), under criticism from his party said, “I think this is the best move for our state, which is to put forward a budget that is balanced, that doesn’t kick the can down the road.” Kastama is running for Secretary of State this year and casts aside warnings of political repercussions, choosing to do what is right for the state.

Sen. Tim Sheldon (D 35th) echoed Kastama saying, “I am not lending my vote to any party. I am representing the people of my district, and I believe they want a fiscally responsible budget, one that balances revenues with expenditures.”

After locking Republicans and moderate Democrats out of the budget process, Sen. Don Benton, (R. 17th) moved for the vote for the “9th Order of Business,” the procedural move that allows the minority party to pull bills to the floor. Democrats, shocked to see 3 of their number side with Republicans, began crying out how this move “destroys bipartisanship in the Senate.”

Never mind they had just locked out the other party prior to Benton’s move.

The budget written by Sen. Joe Zarelli, (R. 18th) makes “$722 million in cuts, leaves a half-billion-dollar reserve, and avoids entirely the shift in expenses to the next budget. It assumes long-term changes in state-employee pension programs that will save the state $133 million in the short term and $2.3 billion over the long haul. Most education spending is spared. The budget preserves the Basic Health Plan, the state’s subsidized health insurance program for the working poor, but it eliminates the Disability Lifeline, the state’s medical assistance program for unemployable adults” according to the Washington State Wire.

Contrary to cries from majority Democrats, this is what we send people to Olympia with expectations to do. Make hard decisions and balance the budget. To be responsible with our tax dollars and curtail some of the runaway spending we have seen since Governor Gregoire was elected.

Should the Senate pass the Republican budget, there remains the matter of the House which has a Democrat majority as well. Democrats there will likely kill it, out of spite if for no other reason.

Voters will then have a clear idea of just who is really trying to lead the state towards recovery.

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