Washington State's Democrats decided to tread cautiously in Olympia in 2007, not wanting to risk losing the supermajority they had just won in November 2006. The mandate came down from the leadership (instead of the Democratic voters): no new taxes, no tampering with the marketplace (aka the payday-loan industry), no freaky liberal shit ["Underreach," Josh Feit, Nov 30, 2006].
The Democrats told their base that they wanted to lay the groundwork to take on bigger agenda items next year.
Well, next year is here.
Unfortunately, instead of having their eyes on January, February, and March—this year's three-month legislative session—they've got their eyes nervously focused on November, this year's election.
The wariness about November is mostly coming from Democratic governor Christine Gregoire, who is skittish about her pending rematch with Dino Rossi. The mantra for the 2008 session? No new taxes, no tampering with the marketplace, no freaky liberal shit. This means the supermajority Democrats are going to lay low for yet another year.
"The expectations are muted that there will be new money for these programs," says Cliff Traisman, lobbyist for the Washington Environmental Council and the Washington Conservation Voters. Both groups are pushing a series of policy initiatives to deal with global warming—including a growth-management bill and a carbon-emissions cap similar to the one that failed last year.
"She's on board with the policy," Traisman says, "just not with the money [to fund it]." (Traisman met with the governor last November to discuss the environmental groups' agenda.)
Other unfinished Democratic business from last year—a comprehensive family-leave bill that would include time off to care for spouses, parents, domestic partners, teenagers, and adult children—is running into the same barrier. The bill's leading advocate, state senator Karen Keiser (D-33, SeaTac), says, "The governor's concern is fiscal, not policy."
Sorry to break it to environmentalists like Traisman and labor lefties like Senator Keiser, but if the governor isn't with you fiscally, she's not actually with you.
Low expectations are also the watchword for the freaky liberal shit. The governor has made it clear that civil-rights activists' push to fully implement domestic partnerships for gays and lesbians isn't on the docket.
Maybe next year.
But then again, after doing nothing this year to ensure they hold onto seats next year, they're not going to want to squander that by doing anything. Makes sense, right?