The message sent Thursday by key members of the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus was clear: the Senate has finished its work and it is now time for the Democrat-led state House to catch up and move forward a responsible budget proposal that reflects the true will of the people in time to beat a Sunday deadline for the end of the 2013 regular session.
Members of the SMCC conveyed that to reporters at an afternoon press conference at the Capitol. They made it clear that they are satisfied with their work, specifically the body’s passage of operating and transportation budgets that do not rely on new taxes. They affirmed that all members have been asked to remain in Olympia through the end of the regular session on Sunday in anticipation of a similar effort from the House.
Gov. Jay Inslee already expressed extreme pessimism earlier in the week about an on-time close of business on all matters, and it was reported elsewhere that his decision to call the Legislature back for a summertime special session might be conditional on the Senate’s agreement to take up several social issues on the Governor’s agenda.
Reporters at the event pounced, echoing the implication of Democrats that drawing a line in the sand for no new taxes is an unreasonable negotiating stance. The barrage of questions boiled down to: With a $900 million difference on tax increases between the bipartisan Senate budget and what has passed the House, isn’t there wiggle room for the SMCC to agree to some of the Democrats’ tax plans? If there is, the SMCC did not tip their hand, and in doing so demonstrated a newfound ability to resist situational gravity that emanates from a false notion planted in the conversation — the irrational concept that equal compromise is the ideal end of all negotiations.
Those who are pushing for government’s role to be expanded have a great track record using the public relations monkey trap quite effectively in the past, leveraging their political opponents’ desires to be perceived as reasonable against the desire to represent the voters. It is a trick of smoke and mirrors that yesterday appeared to lose some of its magical hold over Senate Republicans and the handful of fiscally conservative Democrats voting with them.
Members of the SMCC made it clear in their remarks, that the stop loss mark for new taxes is one that has been clearly defined by the voters. State Sen. Pam Roach (R-Auburn) referenced as evidence that voters have spoken the series of statewide ballot measures in which voters have overwhelming opposed the creation of a state income tax and imposed restrictions of the Legislature’s ability to raise taxes.Roach also expressed her belief that Inslee’s ubiquitous and ad nauseum campaign pledge not to increase taxes and his election victory also comprise a message that lawmakers and the chief executive should be wary to ignore.
State Sen. Doug Ericksen (R-Ferndale) echoed the sentiment, saying, “If you’re going to promise not to raise taxes to get the job, you better have a plan to get the job done without raising taxes, and that is what we’ve accomplished in the state Senate this year in a bipartisan fashion.”
“It would be easier to take the House position more seriously if they had a single Republican vote [for their proposals],” said state Sen. Michael Baumgartner (R-Spokane) added.
The Senate operating budget proposal passed with the votes of 9 Democrats. The transportation budget passed unanimously. Neither budget contains new taxes, something of a modern-day miracle.
For those looking for even more rays of light emanating from the new SMCC’s new path, the bargaining chip on the table is a meaningful worker’s compensation reform plan. The Senate passed the bill early in the session but has been bottled up by House Democrats ever since.