By Rep. Larry Springer
Special times often call for Special Sessions. But a little history first.
The Legislature finished on time without a special session in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, and even 2009 at the beginning of the worst budget crisis in state history.
As the global economic crisis deepened we had special sessions in 2010, 2011, and 2012 during which we cut our budget by more than $12 billion. Those cuts hurt. They hurt seniors, put college tuition out of reach for middle class families, cut funding for prisons and slashed money of parks.
Yet we got through those years because Republicans worked with Democrats. We all understood compromise is the bedrock of our democracy. Neither side got all it wanted. It was hard but we did it, because that’s our job.
Sadly, not so this year. We are actually facing a possible government shutdown on July 1, something that has never happened in the 124 years of statehood. So why now? Because Senate Republicans have refused to compromise, something I have never seen before.
The Supreme Court has ordered the Legislature to dramatically increase education funding. Yet Senate Republicans are refusing to compromise on a budget unless we agree to non-budget related, ideologically driven policy bills like workers compensation, toxic cleanup, teacher hiring/firing, and pay day lending.
As a moderate, pro-business Democrat I even agree with some of these policy bills, but they are a distraction from the job in front of us. House Democrats recognize this and we have agreed to forgo any further consideration of our set of policy bills.
I hope my colleagues in the Senate will see their way to doing the same. Call me naïve, but I think the citizens of Washington state want a budget passed. Policy bills can be debated again next year.
Legislators were elected to lead Washington state, all of it, not just their party’s political agenda.
I’ve been here nine years, had many tough debates, some very emotional, made compromises, and with my Democratic and Republican colleagues always left at the end of session proud of the work we did together. Never has the specter of a government shutdown been a consideration. It does not have to be this way.
We are Washington state, not Washington, D.C. Let’s find common ground, compromise and get our job done.
Rep. Larry Springer represents the 45th Legislative District, which includes Sammamish, Kirkland, Redmond, Woodinville and Duvall. He is the deputy majority leader of the House Democratic Caucus.