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Dec. 13, 2019

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In Our View: Overtime in Olympia

Finger-pointing legislators wrestle their way into special session

The Columbian
Published: March 11, 2012, 5:00pm

Imagine a newspaper reporting that a Legislature “completed a 34-day session Monday night with a list of bills rivaling what they would normally pass in a session five times that long.”Alas, The Columbian is not that newspaper, and Washington’s Legislature is not that deliberative body.

Imagine, also: “In addition to rebalancing the state’s two-year budget, they also passed follow-up bills to (the governor’s) efforts to overhaul education and health care, resolved some disputes remaining from last year, and approved some bills affecting the economy.”

Alas, Chris Gregoire is not that governor.

No, those news reports came from The Statesman Journal in Salem, describing last week’s adjournment of the Oregon Legislative Assembly after working with Gov. John Kitzhaber to make meaningful progress.

All we can say — while trying to hide Washingtonians’ collective embarrassment — is let’s all just quietly suspend any derision of our neighboring state to the south. Up here in our neck of the woods, the Legislature couldn’t get its work done in a session that was twice as long as Oregon’s. Our politicians will reconvene Monday in special session. If that sounds familiar, well, they spent three weeks in a special session that ended in mid-December, accomplishing less than half the work that was necessary in resolving that budget deficit.

While Oregon’s lawmakers are free to pursue their personal schedules, Washington’s lawmakers remain self-captured and consigned to predictable finger-pointing and blame-deflection. Members of both parties are right … and wrong. Democrats understandably argue that the special session could’ve been avoided had it not been for minority Republicans’ wooing over three Democrats and seizing control of the Senate late in the budget-writing process. Republicans understandably argue that the shocking insurrection could’ve been avoided if Democrats had been more open to their budget ideas.

According to an Associated Press story, the “main sticking point” is what we can only describe as a Republicans’ and Democrats’ dual kicking down the road of the can known as the budget. Republicans want to delay a pension payment by a year, and Democrats want to delay a payment to school districts by one day.

Gosh, it’s mighty hard to find one philosophically superior faction in that tug of war.

In addition to blaming each other, the two parties also resemble each other in calling for compromise. State Sen. Joseph Zarelli, R-Ridgefield, who wrote the GOP budget plan, said: “Political gamesmanship won’t produce the sustainable budget our state needs, and I hope the upcoming special session is free of it.”

A joint statement from Democratic Sens. Lisa Brown of Spokane and Ed Murray of Seattle noted: “Resolving our differences will take good faith and a willingness to move to the middle ground.”

Hey, maybe our legislators here in Washington could get some pointers by calling their counterparts in Oregon.

If they can find ’em …