At the budget press conference earlier today where Republican budget writer Sen. Joe Zarelli (R-18, Ridgefield) unveiled a revised budget proposal (his original budget passed the senate in the now-famous budget coup earlier this month and needs to be reconciled with the house Democratic budget), he said he'd done a lot of listening to draft a new "compromise approach."
"Because we haven't been talking," he groused, "what we've tried to do, somewhat by osmosis---in other words, listening---since we passed that budget two weeks ago, [is hear] what the concerns were of other legislators, leaders, and the public. And what we've tried to do is draft a compromise approach here that takes into consideration the majority of what we think that listening provided for us."
This certainly explains the dramatic shift from his original proposal, which cut $73 million from education, to today's $9.3 million education add.
"We totally bought back any reductions in education. We heard very clearly from the majority leader in the senate and others that that was a very important component, so we said 'certainly, we agree with that,' and we bought that back," he said.
"You'll see a similar effect when it comes to child care," Zarelli added. "It was made very clear that was an important component that we continue to support—or not make further reductions in that area, so we said, 'yes, we agree with that.' We've bought all that back."
Yes and no on the child care claim. While Zarelli's budget restores more than $7 million that he initially proposed cutting from children’s welfare and caseload funding, today's proposal still cuts $155 million from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (he initially cut $202 million), which funds child care for poor families; the house Democrats cut $108 million. And he cuts $13.9 million from the food assistance program for low-income legal immigrant families who don't qualify for federal help.
There's another savings that everyone else in the room—Democrats and Republicans—agrees on, though, except Zarelli: Getting rid of the $20 million exemption for big banks on interest earned from first-time mortgages.
Gov. Chris Gregoire recommended it in her original budget proposal. The senate Democrats proposed it in theirs. The house Democrats included it in theirs. And the house Republicans included it in their proposal.
Was the senate Republican budget chief listening to bank industry lobbyists—in his last election he got maxed out contributions from Bank of America and WashBankPAC—instead of "other legislators, leaders, and the public?"
I have a call out to Sen. Zarelli.