Opinion

Democrats fiddle while Washington’s budget burns

The Washington State Legislature was supposed to have completed its business and adjourned its 60-day session on March 11.

Instead, the governor called a special session because majority Democrats were unable to reach an agreement on a supplemental operating budget that would address a $2.7 billion shortfall, and on their proposed tax increase of nearly $1 billion.

I’ve received many calls, e-mails and letters about the Legislature going into overtime.

I want you to know that I share your frustration.

My Republican colleagues and I had been prepared to vote and bring this session to a close on time.

Instead, in the last week and a half of the regular session, the House speaker brought out only a few bills and resolutions to vote on.

We’ve been waiting on the Democrats to bring legislation to the floor for a vote.

Republicans wait for Democrats to quit fighting among themselves and bring legislation to the floor for a vote.

Before I go further, I think it’s important for you to understand this: Democrats have the majority votes in the Legislature.

They have 61 votes in the House; Republicans have only 37.

In the Senate, Democrats have 31 votes and Republicans have 18.

My point is that it is not partisan politics that held up the session. Democrats had enough votes on their own to pass a supplemental budget and adjourn on time without a special session.

Unfortunately, while we waited for them to bring legislation to the floor so that we could wrap up the session on time, the Democrats were busy fighting among themselves because “they can’t quite agree on the damage they want to do.”

Those aren’t my words. They are the words of Seattle Times editorial writer Kate Riley, who wrote a column about the disagreements between members of the majority party that has pushed this session into overtime.

The special session was supposed to begin at noon on Monday. However, no floor action was scheduled until Tuesday.

The majority party had us vote on 15 bills.

The first bill was a measure that would have the state borrow $861 million for energy retrofitting of schools with no means to repay the debt of about $63 million a year.

With interest, it would cost taxpayers $1.5 billion over 25 years to borrow this money.

We’re already in a $2.7 billion deficit, but Democrats plan to raise taxes to plug that hole, and now they want to borrow money at a cost of $1.5 billion?

What’s wrong with this picture?

A special session costs $18,000 a day and they sent lawmakers home on Tuesday after working for only two and a half hours.

We worked through the afternoon on Wednesday, but took very few votes.

You bet I’m frustrated, and I know you are, too.

Even more frustrating, though, is that the governor called a special session so the majority party could pass a supplemental budget with tax increases totaling nearly $1 billion.

This at a time when more than 359,000 people in Washington are out of a job.

That’s more than the populations of Bremerton, Port Orchard, Gig Harbor, Tacoma, University Place, Fife, Bainbridge Island, Poulsbo and Shelton combined.

The 26th Legislative District alone has 4,648 people out of work.

Why should people who have lost their jobs be required to pay more taxes to bail out state government from its poor spending decisions?

Those poor spending decisions continue, even in the Democrats’ latest budget proposal.

The Seattle Times reported that despite claims by the governor and majority Democrats that they’ve “cut the budget,” spending is on track to increase.

Here’s a portion of the article: “The budget plans, for example, would cut $78 million from the class-size-reduction initiative, I-728, and millions more from social services and higher education.

Total cuts currently range from about $650 million in the House budget to more than $900 million in the governor’s.

However, the cuts are offset by around $900 million, or more, in increased spending in the budget proposals.”

The $900 million in new and increased spending is nearly the same amount as the majority party has proposed to increase your taxes.

House Republicans provided solutions that would have set spending priorities and balanced this budget without tax increases.

We proposed a “Made in Washington” jobs plan that would free up resources for employers in the private sector so they could retain employees and hire again.

We have repeatedly offered our solutions and have been repeatedly turned away by the majority party.

We also fought on the House floor for 10 hours to protect the will of the people and save Initiative 960 (Taxpayer Protection Act) from being overturned.

Unfortunately, Senate Bill 6130 passed and the governor signed it into law.

Tax increases will take more of your money to increase the size of state government.

Tax increases will only further hurt our economy and families, it will drive employers and jobs into Idaho, it will increase unemployment, and it will create deeper budget deficits long into the future.

I believe tax increases are unnecessary and harmful, and I remain committed to adopting a fiscally responsible budget that makes government live within its means, as you do at home or work.

Call the governor, the House speaker and the Senate majority leader.

Tell them we can’t take any more taxes.

The number is (800) 562-6000. Do it now.

Rep. Jan Angel (R-Port Orchard) represents Washington’s 26th Legislative District.

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