Yes, it's true, this state is totally fucked because of the all-cuts budget just passed by the state legislature—the Democrat-controlled legislature. However, a few of those Dems, and one major union, say this isn't the end of the fight to restore vital state programs by doing what was unthinkable in Olympia this year: raising new revenue.
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which represents 40,000 home health care workers in Washington State, says it will run an initiative this fall to overturn the 10 percent cut in home health care hours the new budget mandates.
"The approach legislators have taken—slashing support for low-wage workers and their vulnerable clients, while protecting costly tax loopholes for wealthy corporate interests—is not supported by the public," says Adam Glickman, vice president of SEIU Healthcare 775NW. (He was unable to provide any polling to back up that assertion.) In addition, Glickman says the SEIU is continuing its fight in federal court to stop cuts in service for clients, who, the SEIU argues, are guaranteed care under Medicaid.
Meanwhile, a small band of Democrats in the state house is laying the groundwork for a potential lawsuit to challenge the constitutionality of Tim Eyman's Initiative 1053, which passed handily last fall and requires a two-thirds majority in both houses for any tax increase.
Eyman's requirement was a major contributor to this session's all-cuts budget, and yet, says state representative Jamie Pedersen (D-43), "most lawyers who have looked at this question come to the same conclusion: It is not constitutional."
Why? Pedersen says voting thresholds in the state legislature—like requiring a two-thirds majority to raise taxes—must be set by the state constitution, not by passing an initiative.
On May 24, Pedersen and others tried to pass a measure that would have repealed a $100 million tax break for out-of-state banks and used the money to fund class-size reduction. The measure had 48 cosponsors in the house, and a majority of house legislators approved it—but it failed because it didn't have a two-thirds majority.
Is house Speaker Frank Chopp supporting the small band of house Democrats who want to take 1053 to court? "I don't want to speak for Frank," Pedersen says. But he points out that Chopp rarely, if ever, allows a bill to be voted on and fail, but he did in this case.
Still, even if a court case is pursued based on this failed bill, Pedersen says, it's "unlikely" it will be resolved before the next legislative session begins, because of the time required to get the matter heard and decided by the state supreme court.