Bipartisan compromise needed on state budget

When three conservative Democrats in the Senate sided with Republicans, it signaled a political shift in the Capitol.


Republicans did more than fire a shot across the bow when, as the minority party, they were able to get a state budget through the Senate. The move was a direct hit on the majority Democrats' broadside.

Republicans, led by Minority Leader Mike Hewitt, were able to convince three conservative Democrats to join them in approving a leaner state budget than Democratic leaders were willing support.

The blow should be a wake-up call to Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown as well as House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle.

Democrats want to adopt a budget that essentially puts off paying bills until July of 2013 on the hope that the economy will soar along with tax collections.

That's not likely to happen. The economy has been in the tank for four years and the recovery appears to be a slow one. Lawmakers have to face up to the reality that tax collections won't be as brisk as they had hoped. Washington simply can't afford to fund everything.

The Senate Republican budget closes a roughly $1 billion budget shortfall by reducing state spending more than the Democrats' proposal. Net cuts include $44 million to K-12 schools and $30 million to higher education, according to The Seattle Times.

Now, we don't necessarily believe Republicans are making all the right moves here. Cutting education -- basic or higher -- is a last resort.

However, we don't believe for a second that the 22 Republicans and three Democrats who joined them in voting for this plan expect it to be the last word on state spending. What these 25 lawmakers want is for Democrats and Republicans to compromise on a plan that deals with the shortfall now instead of putting it off until the next two-year budget cycle.

"It is our desire, as it's always been, to work with our colleagues across the aisle and across the Rotunda to craft a bipartisan, final budget solution," Hewitt said Monday in a prepared statement.

The three Democratic senators who voted with Republicans on the budget -- Tim Sheldon of Potlatch, Rodney Tom of Bellevue and Jim Kastama of Puyallup -- are still meeting behind closed doors with their fellow Democrats but they remain united with the GOP on the budget issue in the hope they can play a role in negotiating a final budget.

Generally, political power plays such as these mean nothing to folks outside of Olympia. But this move feels different.

Taxpayers have felt the strain of the Great Recession for the past few years. Many have lost jobs and a great many more have seen their wages frozen for years while the prices of food, clothing and gasoline continue to rise. Tough decisions are being made daily.

Majority Democrats must realize they no longer hold all the power and they must compromise. The public will embrace compromise if it results in a reasoned, sustainable budget.


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