Don’t be taken in by the spin – legislators are negotiating

May 22, 2017

Democrat lawmakers still are trying to convince anyone within earshot that our Senate majority is boycotting negotiations toward a new operating budget.

For instance, the Senate’s minority-caucus chair recently wrote that Democrats are “ready to sit down at the table.” Right after accusing our Senate majority of employing “alternative facts.”

A few days earlier the House finance-committee chair had written that Democrats are “ready to negotiate.” Right after accusing our Senate majority of “political games.”

The House finance chair’s words came a full 10 days after members of the Senate and House majorities and minorities began formal negotiations about education funding. She is one of the negotiators. And surely the Senate minority-caucus chair knew his colleagues are involved.

So who’s employing alternative facts and playing political games?

Talks have taken place six times a week for the past four weeks. Our Senate budget leader is one of those negotiating. The focus is on court-directed reforms of the broken education-funding system, and on the K-12 part of the state budget. Those factors will drive the rest of the budget process. They need attention first.

The Democrat spin says we’re refusing to talk. The truth is that we’re just not talking the way Democrats want. They insist on engaging in full-scale budget negotiations without first voting on the big taxes they’ve proposed, which include a new tax on personal income and a tax hike on many Washington employers.

We have no interest in putting our balanced budget proposal up against a House plan built on “ghost dollars” – meaning revenue from new taxes that are only assumed. We didn’t try that when negotiating the Connecting Washington transportation package with the House in 2015; the Senate took the necessary tax vote first. The Senate has already taken a tax vote this year, also, as part of the Education Equality Act we passed on Feb. 1.

While K-12 negotiators meet, Democrats have time to transform what is now an underfunded wish list into a proper, balanced plan capable of passing in the House. If they fear that their big new taxes won’t fly with the folks back home, they are welcome to adopt our fair and equitable approach to funding public schools.

Either way, the sooner House Democrats put a legitimate budget on the table alongside the Senate’s complete plan, the sooner we can complete our work.