Gov. Jay Inslee today assigned blame to the Senate’s mostly Republican Majority Coalition Caucus for the coming second special session.
Inslee noted the math: Democrats have abandoned more than $800 million of their $1.3 billion in proposed tax revenue. Republicans started out calling for no new taxes and have capitulated on just $300 million — and have conditioned even that revenue on the House giving in on a series of policy changes the Senate wants.
Inslee said Republicans are still pushing for those policy priorities even as Democrats have given up on their bills dealing with topics such as abortion insurance, background checks on gun buyers and college tuition for immigrants.
Inslee endorsed the House’s “major, significant and meaningful concessions on revenue” and the removal of Democratic policy bills from the negotiating table. “One chamber took its ideological policy bills off the table to focus on our paramount duty of funding the education of our children,” Inslee said. “One did not.”
Some of the proposals being counted as Democratic concessions — notably background checks and the extension of a higher beer tax — were unable to get the votes they needed in the Democratic-controlled House. But the other policies and taxes ran into Senate opposition.
Republicans say they have compromised by agreeing to accept a fee on hospitals and Medicaid expansion under Obamacare — although rejecting those would have made their budget work much harder — and accepting collective bargaining deals negotiated between unions and former Gov. Chris Gregoire’s administration.
And they have pared down their list of reform bills from 33 to three: allowing more injured workers to accept a new kind of settlement in the workers’ compensation system; giving principals a say on teacher assignments; and capping the growth of non-education spending. Other measures are still in the conversation, however, such as a new kind of payday-style lending.
And they say it’s a big concession to accept taxes as a trade for those reform bills, including scaling back a sales tax break for shoppers from out of state and restoring two taxes, on inheritances and telecommunications companies, that court rulings had restricted.
“We have made significant movement in trying to come together with a deal, realizing that if we’re going to get out of here there probably needs to be revenue on the table,” said Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, a Democrat whose caucus is mostly Republicans. “But from our standpoint there also needs to be reforms, if you’re truly going to keep companies like Boeing in town, if you’re going to have a world class education system, and if we’re going to continue to move forward with a sustainable budget.”
In ratcheting up the rhetoric, Inslee suggested Republicans are being insistent with an eye toward a couple of upcoming deadlines. One involves the estate-tax change; tax refunds start going out Thursday, according to the Department of Revenue, and the state won’t be able to get that money back. The other involves a potential government shutdown that looms if there’s no budget by July 1.
“By continuing to refuse to compromise,” Inslee said, “the Republican majority in the Senate can stall until government can’t operate, while they also hand millionaires tax breaks while at the same time raiding the education legacy trust fund by just doing nothing.”
UPDATE 5:45 p.m.: The Senate majority caucus has updated its chart with more detail: