Busting the Democrats’ myth about ‘Connecting Washington’

May 18, 2017

All year long Democrat lawmakers have mentioned the “Connecting Washington” transportation package of 2015 when talking about reaching major agreements this year.

For the longest time that didn’t make sense. There wouldn’t have been a 2015 package if Democrats hadn’t fumbled the first try in 2013. Why keep bringing it up?

Now it’s clear. Democrats seem to think that with Connecting Washington 2015, the Senate and House negotiated the projects and costs before agreeing on funding sources.

I can guess why they’d prefer that story line, but it’s fiction.

The first Connecting Washington package showed how not to get big legislation through Olympia. House Democrats proposed it in February 2013. But it took two tries to pass a revenue bill and show they were serious. By then it was June 27, with only two days left in our second special session, and we weren’t about to rush the House proposal through the Senate.

When the Senate took the lead on Connecting Washington in 2015, we didn’t strike a deal before voting on revenue, contrary to the House Democrats’ version of history. We didn’t drag our feet on a revenue vote as House Democrats had in 2013. Our revenue bill was through committee and off the Senate floor in two weeks, by March 2. That left plenty of negotiating time.

It’s true the Senate and House both voted on the revenue part in late June, but it was the House’s only vote. The Senate voted again because our March 2 vote no longer counted in that third special session.

The fact that the Senate passed a revenue bill long before both sides reached a deal, and a House revenue vote, busts the Democrats’ myth about how Connecting Washington happened.

Still, it was a landmark agreement that offers lessons in governing. For one, don’t tie spending proposals to tax increases if you’re not willing to vote on them. We took the Connecting Washington revenue vote before hashing out details of the package, so it’s fair to expect the same from House Democrats this year. If they’re serious about their revenue bills, they need to vote.

Connecting Washington also showed, to paraphrase the late Senator Andy Hill, that taxes can receive support in Olympia when they are the last resort. But the taxes House Democrats are proposing now are far from a last resort. The Senate budget proposal is proof.