Gov. Gary Lock, pumped to talk about a budget he signed over a decade ago.
Gov. Gary Lock, pumped to talk about a budget he signed over a decade ago. RS

For 15 years Dino Rossi, the Republican running against Democrat Kim Schrier in Washington's closest Congressional race, has said the same thing over and over again about his one major accomplishment during his tenure in the Washington state legislature: "I mean, I'm the guy that balanced the biggest deficit in state history without raising taxes and still protected the vulnerable, and I did it with getting the Republicans together, but still bringing some moderate Democrats with me." He just posted the same claim on Facebook this afternoon.

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But in a press conference Thursday morning, Gov. Gary Locke, the guy who signed that budget, set the record straight. "For years I’ve simply laughed when Dino Rossi took credit for devising a no-tax-increase budget for the 2003-2005 budget cycle while protecting vulnerable populations," he said. "Well, the truth matters… The truth is he used my budget proposal that I unveiled four months earlier, but he did so with some tweaks."

Locke called those tweaks "draconian," and went on to innumerate Rossi's plans. Specifically, he mentioned Rossi's proposal to remove "some 40,000 children from subsidized health care," to prevent "new families with children from signing up for the basic health plan," and to impose "higher insurance premiums for those with state-subsidized health insurance." He added that Rossi also raised the nursing home tax in a way that "hurt" patients who used private funds to pay, while proposing other cuts for family planning.

When asked what Locke remembers about negotiations regarding programs for developmentally disabled people, the former Governor said he proposed closing down some state institutions and putting more money into community institutions. He remembers Rossi trying to "preserve programs for the developmentally disabled," but said that "neither side" made "any big enhancements" to that end.

"I don’t think anybody liked having to enact that budget," Locke said. "There was a final product that I think both sides felt better about, but clearly we were able to avoid some of the draconian cuts that Dino Rossi proposed."

Locke also remembers pushing back on Rossi's proposal to cut prenatal care for undocumented women because their children, when born, would become United States citizens fully entitled to all the benefits of the U.S. and state government. "It’s really cost-effective to make sure we have quality prenatal care so that the babies are born healthy," he said, adding that we'd have to spend more money taking care of them if they were born with any problems due to lack of care.

Seemingly in response to one of the many extremely bad arguments put forth by the Seattle Times Editorial Board in their recent endorsement of Rossi, Locke admitted it was true that members of the House do not confirm nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court, but said "the House of Representatives does have a say in budgets for funding family planning and Planned Parenthood," and that Rossi would vote to defund them.

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“Dino Rossi will simply continue to support the policies of Donald Trump," Locke said, before throwing his support behind Kim Schrier. He lauded her work as a pediatrician, and said we need more people like Schrier in Congress, “people with a background in working daily with families who are struggling.”

As for Rossi's claim about being a big-time partisan player in the legislature? "Until he became chairman of the budget-writing committee that year, I hadn't really worked with him at all," Locke said. Rossi had been in the legislature for six years at that point.

Dino Rossi no longer gets to talk about his experience writing the state budget 15 years ago, especially if he's going to continue to lie about it. Even though he says he didn't, he did raise taxes in a way that hurt nursing home patients who paid with their own money. And though he tried to carve out funding for developmentally disabled people, he also tried to kick 40,000 kids off of Medicaid and block pregnant women from receiving prenatal care. That's not "protecting the most vulnerable." Moreover, he didn't write the budget from the ground up—he riffed on Locke's budget and tried as hard as he could to make it worse for poor, working people struggling to pay for health care. And he wasn't even at the table during final negotiations on the budget—Republican state senator Joseph Zarelli had to step in because Rossi needed to take leave for some family issues. That's it. That's what happened. We can stop talking about it now.