This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna says he wants to add $1 billion to the state’s public education budget. Now some Democrats are claiming that he favored cutting money for the state’s schools.
Somebody’s peddling an election season falsehood, and it’s not McKenna.
It would be convenient for McKenna’s opponent, Democrat Jay Inslee, if the Republican were trying to strangle K-12 funding. That stance would destroy McKenna’s standing among the centrist and independent voters he needs to get elected.
But that’s not the case, as the Seattle Times reported Monday.
The Democrats’ claim is built on a speck of fact. Back in March, three Democrats helped minority Senate Republicans pass a budget that included $74 million in cuts to education. A spokesman for the attorney general’s office was quoted on the PubliCola blog as saying, “Legislators deserve the credit for reaching across the aisle, finding areas of consensus and passing a budget.”
The Senate Republicans later revised the budget to remove the education cuts. But as far as Democrats were concerned, that statement by an AG spokesman justifies claims that McKenna supported those cuts. It actually sounds like a compliment for lawmakers working together across party lines, something badly needed in the Legislature.
Although McKenna didn’t personally come out as either supporting or rejecting those cuts, he issued a statement just three days after the GOP budget passed calling for a compromise budget that made public education the “first priority funded as we cannot continue to underfund basic public education . . .” That was the right tack to take: He didn’t make specific suggestions, which would have been overreaching into legislators’ purview.
While it is true McKenna did not instantly denounce the education cuts in that initial GOP budget, he never supported them either – which is what Democrats are contending. That’s disingenuous on their part.
Both Democrats and Republicans have been all too eager to take lawmakers’ past votes out of context and use them as campaign fodder. But even that is more honest than blaming a candidate for someone else’s vote.
Given the difficulties lawmakers faced passing any kind of budget this past session, McKenna’s office was justified in praising efforts that moved the Legislature along. Democrats – who have often been on the receiving end of this kind of falsehood – should cut it out.