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Budgeting gives the state capitol a taste of the surreal

Olympia? You might compare its past week to the "The Twilight Zone" TV show.
Washington State Capitol

Washington State Capitol Washington State House Democratic Caucus/Flickr

There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area that we call the Olympia's past week in The Twilight Zone. (The TV show's introduction, paraphrased)

For your consideration, the 2013-1015 state budget. $33 billion, maybe $34 billion  — give or take.

It lurks just around the corner. The denizens of the Capitol Campus anxiously await its arrival. When it comes, mysteries will begin to clear up.

Will Gov. Jay Inslee's' targeted tax loopholes be closed? What about his budget increases proposed Thursday? How do the Republicans plan to meet the Washington Supreme Court's ruling to improve K-12 education, put extra money into higher education, keep services intact for the elderly, expand Medicaid a bit and not raise taxes? What taxes will the Democrats want to raise to balance the budget? Will the two sides ever agree on what is needed to meet the Supreme Court's education mandate? Is a drawn-out battle of wills inevitable?

Inslee unveiled his budget priorities and proposed loophole closures on Thursday, but no budget. So far, Republicans are snickering at it.

House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis, said Inslee's approach is stuck in a portal between two dimensions — you can see part of it, but part of it is not on our plane of existence. So you have no idea what the whole thing will look like.

"I would like to have a (full) budget. You've got to fit (what Inslee did not address Thursday) into the puzzle," DeBolt said.

But this could be an instance of déjà vu for the House Republicans. Earlier, they released their proposed $817 million education fix-it budget without details of the overall operating budget expected to be roughly $33 billion or more. DeBolt said the House Republicans are waiting for the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus -- 23 Republicans and two Democrats -- to release its proposed budget before the lower chamber's GOP releases its entire draft budget. Meanwhile, the House Democrats are supposed to announce their budget proposal a few days after the Senate Majority Coalition goes first.

So when will the Senate majority caucus raise the curtain on its proposed budget? People thought it would be this week. But the number-crunching has been trickier than expected.

"I think it'll be next week. But we can't zero in on an exact date," said Senate Republican Caucus Chairwoman Linda Evans Parlette, R-Wenatchee.

And when the document is unveiled, it will be scrutinized closely to make sure it is not misinterpreted.

*****

Now let us take you on a journey into darkness -- a jungle of mind, morality and money. The twisted world of the U.S. Supreme Court and its 2010 Citizens United ruling. Where the rich -- personally, corporately and union-wise -- can funnel millions of dollars to candidates through Super PACs.

A lefty California billionaire threatens to deluge a Democrat Senate candidate in Massachusetts with negative-spinning TV ads against him if that candidate refuses to change an environmental position. Gun-control-loving gazillionaire New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg used a front group to spend $2 million to defeat a gun-rights-supporting Congressional candidate in Chicago. Las Vegas gambling mogul Sheldon Adleson gave $10 million to Mitt Romney plus another $20 million to Newt Gingrich in the Republican primaries. Karl Rove collected $390 million to boost Romney's failed presidential campaign.

Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, introduced a memorial — essentially a legislative request to Congress — to ask that body to send to the states a U.S. Constitutional amendment returning authority to regulate campaign financing. Kline's proposed memorial went to the Legislature's Republican-dominated Senate Government Operations Committee and was never heard from again.


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