Sunday, March 4, 2012

March 3: Constantine condemns State Senate meltdown

Anybody that ever hoped for any bipartisan bill to be passed by the Washington State Legislature can forget about it for a very long time.

King County Executive Dow Constantine today expressed grave concern over the Republican-led budget proposal adopted in the early hours of this morning in the state Senate:

"Here in King County we have spent the past two years enacting methodical, thoughtful reform of local government across party lines. What happened this morning in the state Senate is the opposite of government reform. It is a political stunt that has already wasted millions of taxpayer dollars.

"The Republican-led Senate vote in the wee hours of the morning robbed residents of an opportunity to see, much less comment on, a state budget that would have devastating impacts upon them. This proposed budget would:

Create more homeless and hungry families by eliminating food support for 12,000 families per month, cutting $202 million in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and reducing the time they can get benefits;
Take away child care assistance from as many as 4,000 working, single mothers and their children, senselessly denying moms the opportunity to work and support their families;
Eliminate treatment programs for 15,000 chemically-dependent residents, putting more addicts on the streets and, at great cost, putting more people in local jails who should be getting treatment;
Close the door on the future for up to 5,500 students in higher education and community and technical colleges through $30 million in cuts to tuition waivers and other support;
Slash public health grants by half, including cuts to defenses against epidemics and a very pointed attack on family-planning programs; and
Divert funds from local infrastructure, leading to further deterioration of local roads and utility systems and higher rates for publicly-owned utilities, such as sewer and water systems.
"The vote to further slash access to colleges like the UW and WSU is an attack on our economic recovery and the prospects of the next generation.

"The multiple votes against family planning and reproductive parity are in direct opposition to the values and interests of the vast majority of the people of King County.

"The Senate Republican budget uses gimmicks of its own and is not sustainable as has been portrayed. A companion bill essential to the budget, SB 6378, would suspend the contributions needed to cover shortfalls in several State pension systems for the next year, and simply shift these costs into the future.

"The political stunt in the Senate also killed HB 2748, a bill King County put forward to enable much-needed efficiencies. This measure would have saved $1 million a year in the unnecessary overhead costs of maintaining separate local Flood and Ferry Districts, and redirected those funds into greater flood protection and water transit service for the people and businesses of King County. Again, reform derailed by political tricks."
Constantine condemns State Senate meltdown
Budget, policy reversals have devastating impact on people of King County

State Senate Republicans were joined by 3 soon-to-be former Democrats in order to form a Republican majority, in order to pass the Republican budget bill to the House (where is will die).
OLYMPIA — Democratic leaders on Saturday treated the GOP takeover of the Senate budget like a bad dream.

Senate Republicans, with the help of three conservative Democrats, seized control Friday and passed their own budget proposal — one far different from the majority party — by a 25-24 vote.

The GOP argues Democrats should set aside hurt feelings and negotiate a compromise. "It's the responsibility of all of us to talk about how we can find a way home together," said Sen. Joe Zarelli, R-Ridgefield, the chief architect of the Republican budget.
. . .
Fuck Joe Zarelli
The three Democratic senators who voted with Republicans on the budget — Tim Sheldon of Potlatch, Rodney Tom of Bellevue and Jim Kastama of Puyallup — are still caucusing with their party.
Fuck Rodney Tom (48th Legislative Destrict, in King County)
Kastama said all three agreed with each other to provide the votes needed to take control of the budget, but nothing more. Which means Democrats, who hold a 27-22 majority, still retain control of the Senate for most business.
. . .
When it comes to the budget, Zarelli expressed confidence he has the votes needed to retain control. "We have 25 people who are committed to a set of principles who are going to guide our perspective on the budget," he said.

That control, however, rests with the Democrats working with his party.

Sheldon is a conservative Democrat who often sides with Republicans and has repeatedly voted against his party's budget. He also voted against the gay-marriage legislation that was approved earlier in the session.

Tom, who used to be a Republican before switching parties in 2006, helped write the Senate Democratic budget in 2010 — and then voted against it.

Kastama said this isn't the first time he's voted against his caucus' budget in the 16 years he's been in the Legislature, but that it's a rare event. Both Kastama and Tom voted for the gay-marriage legislation.

All three lawmakers on Saturday said they remain committed to working with the GOP on the budget. "We're committed to ... being at the table and having sufficient strength to be a key negotiator," Kastama said.
State Republican senators pass own budget proposal, Seattle Times, from 3/3/2012

The House of Representitives is controlled by Democrats, they are not likely going to: suddenly give a shit what the Senate says, suddenly give a shit what the Republcans say, suddenly give a shit what Republican Senators say.
To whit:
OLYMPIA — Republicans pulled a coup early Saturday, seizing control of the state Senate to pass a budget radically different from one proposed by the Democratic majority.

The GOP budget passed on a 25-to-24 vote after more than eight hours of procedural battles and heated debate that started Friday afternoon and dragged past midnight.

Republicans succeeded because three conservative Democrats crossed party lines to hand them control of the process.

The move blew up a legislative session that Democrats argued was headed for a close on March 8, the last day of the regular session.

The budget now goes to the House, where it's guaranteed a hostile reception from Democrats, who hold a 56-42 majority.

Senate Democrats were furious, accusing Republicans of trying to pass a budget that most lawmakers hadn't seen yet.

"This is a narrow, extremist agenda that is being shoved down our throats tonight," said Sen. Ed Murray, a Seattle Democrat who drafted the Democrats' budget.

Republicans said they simply were trying to make changes needed to keep the state from going into the red again — and that Democrats didn't have enough votes to pass their own budget.

"Somebody had to get things going," said Senate Republican Leader Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla. "This is not about partisan politics. This is about trying to get things to work right."

Mike Hewitt is an apparent liar. The actions of his party are purely partisan.
Three Democrats — Sens. Tim Sheldon of Potlatch, Rodney Tom of Bellevue and Jim Kastama of Puyallup — broke from their party, allowing Republicans to bring their version of the budget to the Senate floor.

Democrats hold a 27-22 majority, but the Democrats who joined Republicans gave the GOP a 25-24 advantage.

That allowed Republicans to use procedural moves to pull bills to the floor, even those that hadn't had a public hearing.

Democrats tried to slow down the process by requiring a clerk to read aloud the entire 235-page budget bill. That went on for about an hour until lawmakers agreed to take a break and regroup.

Kastama said he went along with the GOP because a series of bills, including a proposed constitutional amendment to require a balanced state budget, are languishing in the Legislature. He wants them passed.

"People are shocked," he said about the GOP takeover. "But this is what you do when people can't get bills through the process."

Tom said he was frustrated by the Democrats' spending proposal, along with the failure to pass "government reform."

"Another budget that is unsustainable, relies upon accounting gimmicks and sets our state up for a perennial deficit is simply unacceptable," he said in a statement.

What GOP budget does

The Senate Republican proposal closes a roughly $1 billion budget shortfall, in part by reducing state spending more than the Democrats' proposal. Net cuts include: $44 million to K-12 schools and $30 million to higher education, according to nonpartisan staff.

The Democratic budget contained no education cuts.

The GOP plan also would reduce bonuses for teachers and eliminate a program known as Disability Lifeline, a welfare and health-care program for unemployable adults who aren't covered by federal Social Security benefits.
. . .

The last time this occurred was in 1987, when former Sen. Brad Owen, now the lieutenant governor, and two other Democrats jumped ship to help Republicans write a no-new-taxes budget.

Now Democrats say the well is poisoned.

If reactions by House Speaker Frank Chopp and Gov. Chris Gregoire to Friday's events are any guide, the Legislature will be in town far beyond the scheduled March 8 adjournment day.

"The Senate Republicans have exercised the worst abuse of power I have ever witnessed in the Legislature," Chopp, D-Seattle, said in a statement. "It says something about them that the minute they gained power, they abused it."

Gregoire, standing outside the speaker's office, was furious as well.

"I am chagrined that they're over there right now working on something I've never seen, the members have never seen — members on both parties have never seen, and they're going to take a vote tonight?" she said.

"This is not how we do business in Washington state."
GOP grabs reins of budget in Olympia, Seattle Times, from 3/2/2012

I suggest that the House spend as much time as they feel is needed to closely revue the Republican proposed Senate budget bill. It should be noted that state elected officials can not raise money for elections while the legislature is in session, or special session, or many special sessions, going on through next November's election, making it difficult for Republican Rob McKenna to raise money to run for governor.

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