Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire acknowledged legislators are unlikely to pass some $2 billion in budget cuts she proposed in this special session. The governor also sees no chance they’ll ask voters to approve a temporary half-cent sales tax increase in March.
More than a third of the way into the special session, visible progress on the budget is hard to find. Many legislators who are not in leadership or members of the budget-writing Ways and Means committees have returned to their homes, and the two chambers hold “pro forma” sessions most days.
True, Olympia is broken for Democrats. They may have the governor's mansion, a strong hold of the house, and a narrow but secure hold of the senate. But that doesn't seem to matter. Instead of framing the budget discussion, Gregoire is resigned to failure (less than two weeks into the session) and Democrats are adopting right-wing talking points. “Senate Democrats hear the public skepticism about government waste,” said Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown (D-Spokane) in a statement released this morning. It's the same strategy... that never fails to let them down.
But Republicans, wow. Olympia is accomplishing their agenda with hustle: An endlessly perpetuating revenue shortfall, the attrition of government, an initiative charlatan who disguises the status quo as reform, a record $9 billion transportation budget for highways, and a systematic lopping off of the essential services of government for the working class. All they have to do is sit idly by while a fractured democratic caucus flounders, year after year.