The Olympian editorial board says the new Democratic majority in Olympia would be wise to forego big legislative changes in 2018.
Democrats meeting in Olympia in January may feel pent-up desire to make big legislative changes…
Measured steps would be better. State Democrats must avoid the unseemly mess we’ve seen in the Other Washington — where one party controls everything and takes little advice from across the aisle.
Better that they look for a middle to progressive path that keeps Washington moving forward on health care, climate action and civil rights.
It’s not that the Olympian’s editorial board doesn’t see things they’d like to see enacted. The editorial mentions a capital gains tax, carbon tax, and other Democratic priorities that have been put on hold by the Senate’s Republican majority. But,
The key is meeting public needs without inviting a voter backlash.
And there are other constraints.
State Sen. Sam Hunt, D-Olympia, expects that Democratic control will allow legislation bottled up by Republicans to finally move. This includes a state voting rights act, protection of reproductive rights and health insurance. But he cautioned the Democrats have just a one-seat majority in the state Senate — and slightly more in the House. Plus, Senate Democrats are very diverse with conservatives whose voices serve as a check, he said.
The Walla Walla Union-Bulleting also urges lawmakers to stay the course on the education plan adopted last session.
This year when the Senate was controlled by Republicans, the Democrat-led House was forced to negotiate and compromise to get legislation approved. The plan to fully fund basic education, which was heavily influenced by the GOP Senate, was a product of that give-and-take approach.
From our rural Eastern Washington perspective, the tax shift in the approved education plan felt equitable. It taxes those who can most afford to pay it while ensuring that every school in the state has the funds to pay for basic education costs, including teachers’ salaries.
Yet, those in Seattle and its suburbs, where property values are going up faster than a Saturn V rocket, are not happy with the prospect of paying significantly higher property taxes…
In the end, it would be best for the entire state if lawmakers stuck to the basic framework of the bipartisan deal, specifically using the progressive tax system (generally supported by Democrats on other issues) to fully fund the state’s public schools.
For state lawmakers, next year provides a scheduled 60-day session that likely will prevent any major policy changes. The Legislature’s first duty should be to adopt a capital budget; then it must find a solution for a water-rights issue emanating from a state Supreme Court ruling known as the Hirst decision. The capital budget has broad support but was blocked by Republicans demanding a fix to the Hirst issue. These contentious items provide Democrats with an opportunity to embrace bipartisanship and to demonstrate that accomplishments are more important than dogma.
Lawmakers also likely will need to tweak the expansive budget agreement reached this year in an effort to adequately fund public education. The state Supreme Court has yet to render an opinion on the effort, but a shortfall in funding for special education shows that the work is far from finished.
Beyond that, next year’s agenda is likely to be filled with relatively small-ticket items that can be tallied in the win column by both parties and will look good on campaign flyers for next November’s election. More intense debates about a capital-gains tax, a carbon tax or an assault-weapons ban will have to wait until the broader legislative session of 2019.
The Seattle Times editorial board previously predicted and endorsed a moderate 2018 agenda. Makes sense to us, as we wrote in today’s newsletter.