By BOB SMITH
Kitsap News Group
OLYMPIA — Washington state legislators once again find themselves between a rock and a hard place following the close of their regular legislative session in Olympia the weekend of April 22.
The Democratic-led House and the Republican-controlled Senate are at odds in reconciling a constitutionally mandated balanced state budget.
At the crux of the debate is how to fund the state’s public schools to satisfy the tenants of the Supreme Court’s McCleary decision. To do so requires a fundamental shift in Washington state’s education funding mechanism.
Sen. Jan Angel sent a legislative update newsletter to her 26th District constituents this week explaining why the House and Senate haven’t, in fact, completed their mandated assignment in Olympia. The Republican state senator, who is a member of the Senate’s Majority Coalition Caucus, was adamant: Their work is not done.
“To write and pass the state’s budget, both the Senate and the House need to propose and pass a balanced budget. Unlike the federal government, we can’t print money or spend ourselves into a deficit — just like its citizens, the state has to live within its means,” Angel wrote.
“Unfortunately,” she continued, “the House chose to play by its own rules.” Angel stated that the Democratic-led House proposed a budget “that relies on $11 billion in new taxes, but refused to pass or even vote on the taxes necessary to fund their budget. If their budget went into effect, we would immediately have an $11 billion deficit.”
Angel used the analogy that, like citizens who need to know what cash is in their wallets before paying their bills, the state should do the same. So, she said the majority coalition in the Senate decided to take that approach and vote on the House tax plan.
“We brought the bills containing their entire tax plan to the Senate floor for a vote to give them a fair chance to show whether these new taxes have support or not,” she wrote in the newsletter.
“They do not. Both tax bills failed unanimously,” she reported to constituents.
Having proven her point, Angel said she hopes the results of the vote will spur meaningful budget negotiations that factor in realistic funding options.
“The House owes it to the citizens of Washington to either show they have the votes for new taxes or give them up,” Angel noted.
“We hope the House will take a serious look at what we did in the Senate budget to live within our means so we can negotiate a final budget agreement and get the job done soon.”
With that shot across the bow, Angel and the Senate majority are entering yet another, inevitable, special session extending an olive branch in one hand and a sword in the other, as they cast a wary eye at their opposition in the House.
Stay tuned, taxpayers.