Midday Scan: Why Hemingway would have tut-tutted the Wash. legislature

With the legislature down to the wire on the special session, will lawmakers continue looking busy, while pushing back the deadline (and upping the cost to the state) or can they actually agree on a budget?

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Rep. Jay Inslee is interviewed on KCTS 9 by Enrique Cerna.

With the legislature down to the wire on the special session, will lawmakers continue looking busy, while pushing back the deadline (and upping the cost to the state) or can they actually agree on a budget?

What would Papa Hemingway make of the Washington legislature?  "Never mistake motion for action," Hemingway said. In Olympia, a self-conscious hustle and face-scrunching sobriety masquerade for action. It's the night before the term paper, and every undergrad furtively longs for an extension.  

"Gov. Chris Gregoire and Democratic and Republican lawmakers negotiated for hours Monday in hopes of reaching agreement on a balanced budget and government reforms before time runs out in the special session," the Herald's Jerry Cornfield writes. "It remained unclear late Monday if the marathon talks resulted in a deal lawmakers could approve Tuesday, the last scheduled day of the extra session."

There is a price for kicking the can. Public cynicism is high and another special session will only magnify the politics-is-broken mindset. In addition, the cost of inaction is a wee steep. As Cornfield writes, "Without an accord, Gregoire would have to decide soon whether to bring legislators back or proceed with across-the-board cuts in spending by state agencies to plug a projected $500 million budget gap."  

Jay Inslee is under attack for the cost of the special election to fill his seat in Congress. It's a distraction that, if left unchallenged, could continue to fester and re-emerge later in the campaign.  

"Republicans continue to pound Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Jay Inslee over the expense of the special election to pick a temporary replacement for the 1st District congressional seat he abandoned last month," the Seattle Times' Jim Brunner writes. "State GOP Chairman Kirby Wilbur called a news conference Monday morning in downtown Seattle to demand that Inslee pay for the special election." 

The prudent, message-quashing response — "I'll ensure taxpayers don't bear the burden, and I'll raise the necessary funds. Now let's talk jobs and higher-ed." — has yet to be heard. Inslee still has time to tamp the fire, however. Let's hope that the personal and picayune don't obviate the broader public issues affecting Washington voters.

The coolest governor in the U.S. (sorry Chris Christie) is Oregon's John Kitzhaber. Kitzhaber, a doctor who took a break after serving two terms as Oregon governor, has re-calibrated his "Dr. no" MO and evolved into a consensus leader. It's an expression of Kitzhaber's maturity and evolving leadership style.

"The next time Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber reaches for his veto pen he might need rust remover," the Oregonian's Harry Esteve writes. "The deadline for him to send notice of any vetoes expired Monday without him scotching a single bill from the February legislative session."   

Pensions are a political football. Why? Older people, e.g., pensioners, vote en masse and so many of us look longingly to a post-work afterlife. Seattle, weighing the elbows as well as the inevitable, is a useful case study. 

"Seattle's generous employee-pension system, underfunded by $1 billion over the next 30 years, will require larger infusions from the city treasury or reduced benefits for newly hired workers, a study team told the City Council on Monday," the Seattle Times Keith Ervin writes. "The $1.8 billion pension fund hasn't fully recovered from its $616 million loss during the 2008 financial crisis and is facing additional strain from the longer life spans of retirees." With city pensions, politics could shoulder-out common sense. Pensions are a third rail and lawmakers understand that.  

Lastly, what's so irritating about tests? (granted, the question answers the question.) For Snohomish County parents, the issue has become a rallying cry for additional funding and less testing. 

"Lawmakers say they are listening to a group of a parents who are protesting funding cuts to education," the Herald's Alejandro Dominguez writes. "The parents, who created We Support Schools Snohomish, are letting their children, who are mostly elementary students, opt out of the Measurements of Students Progress tests to make legislators in Olympia pay attention and make them look for other ways to reduce spending."   

Link Summary

The Herald "Signs of progress, but no firm budget deal"

Seattle Times, "Partisan brawl over cost of special election for Inslee's former congressional seat"

Oregonian"Gov. John Kitzhaber vetoes grand total of 0 bills from February session"

The Seattle Times, "Team tells Council that Seattle can't afford pension plan"

The Herald, "Political attention comes to parents opting out of tests"


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About the Authors & Contributors

Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson is the former editorial-page editor of the Everett Herald. Follow him on Twitter @phardinjackson