Second special session begins with no budget agreement

sinedieOn Tuesday, the Washington State Legislature adjourned Sine Die (it’s Latin for “without a day” and pronounced “SIGH-nee-DYE”) for the second time this year. Yesterday, we began the second special session of 2013 – our third session of the year – with only one priority: pass a state budget.

While I’d like to say that both sides are working collaboratively to reach a common ground, the fact is the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus has already passed two bipartisan compromise budgets and Democrats in the House of Representatives are simply refusing to back away from their wish list of new and increased taxes. This, despite the fact that the state is projected to receive over two billion dollars in new revenue for the upcoming 2013-15 biennium (two-year budget cycle).

When we formed the Majority Coalition Caucus in January, our priorities were clear…pass a sustainable budget that lives within the state’s means, make a sizeable investment in basic education in accordance with the state Supreme Court’s McCleary mandate, and get Washington back to work by helping private businesses create jobs. The budget we passed from the Senate on Saturday balances for four years, contains no new taxes, reduces tuition at state colleges and universities by three percent, and puts over a billion dollars into basic education…all without making reductions to current state program and service levels.

Additionally, the Senate budget includes a number of vital government reforms that will save taxpayers billions of dollars in the long run, including making changes to the way the state pays out workers’ compensation funds. Our reform will give injured workers of a certain age an additional option of taking a lump-sum payment and returning to work rather than forcing them to remain at home and unemployed for years. We also substantially change the way basic education would be funded by limiting the growth of non-education spending to six percent every two years, and – instead of raising taxes – redirecting existing revenue toward basic education while implementing permanent policy changes.

kids1Unfortunately, the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives – while claiming that they are compromising by moving from pie-in-the-sky tax hikes to tax hikes they can barely pass out of their own chamber – still refuse to accept our reform ideas and are insisting on paying for new and expanded social programs with the state’s additional $2 billion in revenue. Only then would they begin paying for basic education, using their new taxes they hope to get approved.

That is simply the wrong priority for the citizens of Washington, and while I hope our coalition can eventually find a compromise that affects only our positions and not our principles, I am not willing to vote for a budget that endangers the future of our children when we already have the funding to give them an outstanding head start without raising taxes.