As the Legislature gets down to the business of writing a budget for the next two years, most of the work is being done by four men: two veterans from the Democratic-controlled House and two relative newcomers from the Republican-led Senate. All of it behind closed doors.
With so much at stake this biennium — how to pay for public education, support job growth and reset taxation levels — the parties have turned to some of their smartest and most talented members. As a group, budget boys Andy Hill, John Braun, Ross Hunter and Reuven Carlyle boast eight degrees, two Microsoft pedigrees and enough ambition to humble Jeff Bezos.
They can expect lots of backup from Olympia powerbrokers like House Speaker Frank Chopp and Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler. But how well all that brain power and testosterone can mesh will determine whether negotiations produce a state budget by the April 26 end-of-session deadline, or whether us taxpayers wind up footing the bill for a special overtime session — or two.
Meet Olympia's budget boys.
Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond
Hill, 51, has been a state senator for less than five years, but he’s already serving his third term as chair of the Senate Ways & Means Committee. That’s a super-fast rise, even when you consider that it was fueled by the defection of two Democrats which gave Republicans control of the Senate.
Some think Hill’s rise was a little too fast. They question whether he has the experience necessary for the daunting budget task before him. Others believe Hill’s rumored interest in the governor’s job – not publicly confirmed – may handicap the senator, forcing him to keep conservatives in his caucus happy without jeopardizing his chances with the state’s more moderate electorate.