Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
Some Republicans praised former Gov. Chris Gregoire to reporters today as they drew an unflattering comparison with her successor, Jay Inslee, in the two Democratic governors’ approach to end-of-legislative-session negotiations.
The criticism of Inslee to reporters was pretty mild. Both Sen. Linda Evans Parlette of Wenatchee and Rep. Gary Alexander of Thurston County took pains to acknowledge that Inslee is new — not yet past his 100th day. And Senate Republican leader Mark Schoesler of Ritzville said simply: “He’s not as active as his predecessor.”
The House and Senate budgets are far apart. “The key in previous negotiations where we had this kind of a separation is for the governor’s office to be an integral part of that negotiation and to look at all sides and try to find some compromise,” Alexander said. “I don’t see that, and I mentioned that to the governor.”
Their remarks came after the Democratic governor laid out a list of non-budget actions he wants before the end of the session in five days or in a special session.
Parlette said Gregoire last year “was an integral part of helping us get out of here on time, and new bills on the sideline that weren’t related to the budget were not brought up.”
As for Inslee, she said: ”If he chooses not to help us get to a balanced budget, that’s his choice. Our former governor was very helpful in doing that.”
A couple of things complicate that portrait. As Parlette acknowledged in the same breath, she was actually talking about events that took place in a special session last year. Lawmakers didn’t actually get out on time last year or any of Gregoire’s last three years in office. And as other Republicans repeated today, they are demanding education and workers’ compensation reforms that are not strictly related to the budget — similar to changes they have sought in past years.
But Parlette said once Gregoire realized last year that Republicans were serious about wanting reforms, she helped throw out ideas for potential compromises.
When I asked him today about whether he’s putting forward new ideas, Inslee said:
I can’t tell you that I’ve provided some Einsteinian way to solve some disagreements here. We are trying to in this process, in this process trying to figure out where the highest priority is for every part of the five corners (Inslee and the four partisan caucuses of the Legislature). And that’s the process of this discussion. And again, I think people are now getting down to brass tacks to figure that out.
Parlette has not been directly involved in budget talks. Senate budget chairman Andy Hill of Redmond who has, was more cautious.
“I’ve talked to the governor’s office and they’re kind of looking for ways of, ‘what if we did this. what if we started with an open negotiation like this.’ There is a desire to get things done,” Hill said. He added that budgets are farther apart than in the past partly because of the control of the Senate by Republicans and two Democrats.