Lawmakers make right call in declining expense money

Sure, it's a symbolic gesture, but it is also the appropriate thing to do.

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The promised week-long special session of the Legislature is now in its second week. And lawmakers don't appear close to plugging holes in the state budget.

The clock keeps ticking - and the costs keep mounting. Although the cost of the extra session isn't as high as originally estimated.

A growing number of lawmakers have turned down the $90 a day expense money.

It was originally estimated the special session would cost taxpayers about $18,000 a day, most of that from the $90 each of the 147 state lawmakers would receive each day.

As of last weekend 21 of 49 Senate members (including Sen. Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla) and 27 of 98 House members had asked to not be reimbursed. In additon, 24 more House members (including Reps. Maureen Walsh, R-College Place, and Terry Nealey, R-Dayton) asked not to receive the $90 allowance on specific days, according to staff with the Senate and House administrative offices.

Bravo for them.

Sure, it's a symbolic gesture, but an important one nevertheless. Turning down the cash isn't easy for a number of the legislators as they have expenses to cover when they are in Olympia. Many have to take time away from their regular jobs to serve in the Legislature.

Sacrifice or not, lawmakers who are giving up the cash are telling taxpayers they don't want to see public money wasted. And some (the Republicans) are making a bolder statement - the Legislature has bungled its work.

"Where I'm from, if you don't do your job right the first time, you don't get paid more to do it again," said Rep. Bruce Dammeier, R-Puyallup.

Hard to argue with that.

This special session - the decision by some to decline expense payments aside - has been a waste of time and money to this point.

Legislative leaders should have asked the governor to delay the special session until they were able to come up with a clear plan on dealing with the budget. Then, when a consensus had been achieved, the entire Legislature could be called back to Olympia for a day or two to add the finishing touches and approve it.

Big problems such as this have been handled that way in the past with success.

Lawmakers, by law, have 30 days from March 15 to get their work done.

Let's hope they can get it done sooner rather than later. A second special session is simply not acceptable.

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