An Early Look at the Apparent Democratic Control of Olympia: Seattle Times Editorial Board Expects Moderation

Although Washington’s slow-walk ballot counting sometimes leads to surprises, most are calling the 45th District Senate race for Democrat Manka Dhingra. Seattle Times reporter Joseph O’Sullivan writes,

The lead for Dhingra, a first-time candidate and senior deputy prosecutor for King County, had Democrats eager to pronounce victory.

“We become the last brick in the big blue wall up and down the West Coast,” state Democratic Party Chair Tina Podlodowski told supporters at Dhingra’s election-night party.

That “blue wall” theme was previewed in the New York Times ahead of the election, which saw some ambitious initiatives.

Sharon Nelson, the Democratic leader in the Washington State Senate, conveyed the party’s grand aspirations in an almost Trump-like phrase: “A blue wall,” Ms. Nelson enthused, “from the Canadian border to the Mexican border.”

Leading in the polls and anticipating victory, Democrats have sketched an aggressive agenda on issues where strong consensus appears to exist in the party, including new laws on gun control, contraception and environmental regulation. Ms. Nelson said she had met with the speaker of the Oregon Statehouse about enacting policy across state lines. The three states’ Democratic governors have spoken regularly about policy collaboration, and over the summer began coordinated talks on climate change with foreign heads of state.

Perhaps most ambitious of all, Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, harbors dreams of enacting a muscular carbon pricing plan along with California, Oregon and officials in Canada. In an interview, Mr. Inslee said the special election in Eastside Seattle could open the way for broad action, including taxing carbon but also joint initiatives on energy efficiency, research and clean water.

The Seattle Times editorial board this morning says things are unlikely to move quickly.

Here’s a reality check: If Democrats win full control of the Legislature, it won’t give Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee a green light to enact every progressive tax he’s had his eye on these past few years. Nor will it cause the state to go to hell in a socialist, tax-happy handbasket, as Republicans have alleged in ads throughout the campaign season.

Democrats who control the state House didn’t have the votes this year to enact a tax on carbon emissions, despite Inslee’s continued push for it. That hasn’t changed overnight. And the capital gains tax House Democrats proposed earlier this year still doesn’t have enough votes to clear the state Senate, even if Dhingra’s lead holds and Democrats take over. Too many moderate Democrats in Olympia already say they won’t vote for it.

Spokesman-Review reporter Jim Camden cites seven issues to watch if Democrats control the 2018 agenda. With respect to the carbon tax, he agrees with the Times’ editorial.

Gov. Jay Inslee has long advocated a tax on carbon pollution as a better way to raise money for the state as well as addressing what some see as a main factor in global climate change. Having Democrats in control of both chambers doesn’t guarantee such a tax would pass because the Democratic House hasn’t been enthusiastic about it in the past, but it could mean more discussion.

Reporting for The News Tribune, Walker Ornstein writes,

If Dhingra does hold her lead and wins the 45th District race, there is some skepticism as to how much of their agenda Democrats could actually accomplish.

Lawmakers will convene in January for a 60-day supplemental budget session, reserved usually for tweaks to the two-year budget approved the year before. Looming just ahead is a far larger round of elections in the fall of 2018, potentially mixing up control of the Legislature again before 2019, when another two-year budget will be written.

A session to watch, to engage, and to work for the Opportunity Washington Priorities for Shared Prosperity.