2015 Legislative Session Begins Today

It’s a new year and the opening of a new legislative session in Olympia. These things always start slowly, kind of like the Seahawks. We can only hope for a solid fourth quarter finish that successfully addresses all the concerns that doubtless will arise as the game is being played.

Preceding opening day ceremonies politicos and pundits gave us plenty of foreshadowing. The session begins with little agreement on nature of the state’s budget challenge. In the Seattle Times, reporter Joseph O’Sullivan contrasts the views of the Legislature’s two top budget writers, Republican Senator Andy Hill and Democrat Ross Hunter. Writing that listening to the two of them is “to watch parallel universes collide,” O’Sullivan clarifies the dilemma they face in trying to define the problem: Hill starts with the assumption that the reported deficit is “a myth,” while Hunter identifies a multi-billion shortfall. 

Most observers agree that until lawmakers agree on the problem to be solved, the solution will be elusive.

Continuing the theme, Ralph Schwarz and Samantha Wohlfeil report that the$2.3 billion disagreement colors the debate on taxation. The governor, whose definition of the problem is similar to Hunter’s, called for a passel of new and increased taxes, including a capital gains and carbon tax. Both face stiff opposition in the Senate. Even some of those who believe new revenues are necessary are skeptical of the carbon and capital gains taxes, noting the volatility of the latter and unproven performance of the former. 

Complicating the already complex, a pair of Republican senators have endorsed a Senate rule change that would require a two-thirds vote on any bill that contains a tax increase. That proposal is expected to be decided today.

We’ve written about many of these issues before, and will be tracking them for you during the session. With lawmakers back in Olympia, it’s important that they hear from you on your priorities and concerns. WashACE believes that, for all the challenges ahead, the 2015 session provides an excellent opportunity for the state to accelerate progress and expand economic prosperity to all corners of our state. We look forward to working with you in the coming days.