The holiday is over: Legislature needs to get back to work and finish the job

The holiday weekend is behind us. Ideally, it gave lawmakers a chance to regroup and focus on the work yet to be done. The editorial boards of the Seattle Times and Everett Herald join The News Tribune in focusing on the Senate budget breakdown.

The Seattle Times notes how the last-minute budget shenanigans upended what might have been a strong close to a long, contentious session. 

BY any measure, the accomplishments of the 2015 Washington Legislature are historic — record new investment in K-12 education and early learning, a boost in mental-health services, a long overdue transportation package and, stunningly, an actual reduction in public college tuition. A truly breathtaking effort of bipartisan leadership and give-and-take by lawmakers and the governor.

Yet the wrangling over graduation requirements and Initiative 1351 confounded final passage of necessary transportation legislation and blew a $2 billion hole in the budget. The Times editorial faults Senate Democrats for the meltdown.

After Gov. Jay Inslee signed the budget late Tuesday, ending the threat of a government shutdown, and as dawn approached early Wednesday, Democratic state senators sympathetic to the WEA refused to defer I-1351. In doing so, they failed to support the budget compromise reached by their budget negotiators.

…But it’s not too late. This special legislative session — the third overtime session — goes to the end of the month. The Senate should be able to take another vote and bring the budget into balance.

As the editorial notes, some argue that there’s no hurry to finish the work, the governor disagrees. He urges swift resolution. 

The Everett Herald editorial board concurs, asking “Who’s served by budget delay?” (The editorial uses several lines from Godfather III to frame its arguments; it’s a good read.)

In defending his vote against suspension, Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, said more debate was necessary: “The voters deserve a thoughtful discussion, not a suspension of their will in the middle of the night.”

Yes, voters did deserve that discussion, but it should have come months ago, before lawmakers found themselves in a third special session. I-1351 was not a surprise to any lawmaker. It was there all along, and none of the proposed budgets attempted to address it beyond the assumption that its provisions would have to be delayed.

Even some last-minute horse-trading failed. Democrats had sought concessions that, among other changes to graduation standards, would have allowed about 2,000 high school students who failed a biology test to get their diplomas this year. Sen. Joe Fain, R-Auburn, said Republicans were ready to drop the biology exam requirement, but the offer was rejected by Senate Democrats.

We’re at a loss to understand what anyone gains from further delay. And there’s too much at stake, including the projects outlined in the capital and transportation budgets and other hard-fought agreements.

Right. This third overtime session could last until July 27. It should end well before then. We’ll leave the last word to the Herald:

There is one more line from “Godfather III,” that seems apt here: “Politics is knowing when to pull the trigger.”