Although Governor Inslee campaigned on the promise in 2012 to not propose new taxes, the 2015 session started and ended in perfect symmetry with him calling for tax increases. With the exception of changing the B&O tax rate for royalties, neither the House nor Senate voted on any of the other tax increases originally proposed by the Governor.
Despite the best efforts of the Senate Republicans to obstruct progress every step of the way, we were able to make modest gains on some key priorities and we laid the groundwork for bigger wins in the future. We also succeeded in exposing the Senate Republicans’ obstructionism and far-right priorities through the press and social media.
As state Sen. Andy Hill stuck to his message over months of budget negotiations — new taxes only as a last resort — he watched the Democrats’ revenue proposals melt away. In the end, even several tax exemptions closed in the new $38.2 billion state operating budget — a compromise made with Democrats to raise some revenue — were chosen by Republicans. A 53-year-old, soccer-loving Harvard MBA and former Microsoft group manager from Redmond, Hill played the public face of the GOP message during the grueling, extended legislative season that ended Friday.
Just enough Democrats changed their “no” votes to “yes” on Thursday to enable the Legislature to delay implementing Initiative I-1351’s school class sizes by four years. In return, the Senate Republicans held to their agreement to delay end-of-course biology testing requirements for high school graduation by two years. This also means the Senate’s work is done for the 2015 session. On Friday, the House is expected to pass the revamped testing bill plus two stalled long-range transportation projects bills.
Amending an initiative requires a supermajority. Republicans needed Democratic votes, but because the solution wasn’t revealed to us until the last moment, our caucus didn’t have a chance to discuss the decision to delay it. We have members who are willing to vote to change the initiative, but we were clear with Senate Republicans about what that means: If we are going to pass a bill that is detrimental to kids, let’s do something significant to help them.
State senators should reflect on whether they are truly free and independent of the WEA, which for too long has wagged the dog in Olympia and is now impeding bipartisan progress on fixing the school system’s unconstitutional inequities. Disappointingly, the Senate Democrats, led by Minority Leader Sharon Nelson of Maury Island and Deputy Leader Andy Billig of Spokane, reneged on a hard-won budget deal contingent on delaying the implementation of Initiative 1351.