1. The big news out of Olympia Friday afternoon was that the Republican-dominated Majority Coalition Caucus passed its budget with a handful Democrats on board, 30-18, including yea votes from Sens. Tracey Eide (D-30, Federal Way), Steve Hobbs (D-44, Lake Stevens), freshman Mark Mullet (D-5, Issaquah) and flaming liberal Sen. Sharon Nelson (D-34, W. Seattle).
Nelson helped write the budget, but openly criticized it; the budget has drawn criticism from liberals (and the governor and the Democratic house) for cutting social programs, raiding the capital budget, and booking savings from amorphous things such as Lean management. (With the exception of Nelson, who voted for the budget as a good faith negotiatior, the entire Seattle delegation voted against it.)
Democrats may be upset that the MCC was able to pass a budget with a Democratic stamp on it, but there may be a method to the Democrats' madness.
If Democrats hadn't participated in the process (Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-24, Hoquiam, also helped write it), the budget wouldn't include some Democratic must-haves that are in there now: funding for family planning (thanks Sen. Nelson), immigrant and refugee services; collective bargaining contracts intact; and Medicaid expansion (which will provide coverage to an additional 261,000 people). This is all stuff that would have needed to be negotiated back in by the Democratic house just to get the final budget looking like the senate budget we have today.
There is a major poison pill in the senate budget—an accompanying Republican bill that caps new spending on non-education budget items.
With negotiations getting cued up in the house and with the governor (the house is expected to propose a super liberal budget on Wednesday, killing tax breaks and raising revenue), the senate budget can only move left—which means having Democrats involved early on the senate side dragged the conversation left earlier in the process, giving the house and thg governor a head start.
Of course, as we reported last week, there is a major poison pill in the senate budget—an accompanying Republican bill that caps new spending on non-education budget items while also shifting $750 million out of the general fund. The Democrats are going to have their hands full trying to negotiate those pieces out of the picture. Adding that piece was a smart move by the MCC to frame negotiations.
2. Something else that happened in Olympia on Friday afternoon that has set the tone for upcoming negotiations: In a 20-7 bipartisan vote, the house finance committee passed legislation closing a tax break for land line phone service—a must have to avoid a billion dollar hit from cell phone carriers who are suing over the prehistoric rules.
The tax-phobic senate Republicans left the item out of their budget. Making land line phone companies pay up is expected to produce a windfall of $33 million, though the senate Republicans are likely to argue for a revenue-neutral option.
3. In a campaign invitation of questionable taste, mayoral candidate (and current city council member) Bruce Harrell invited supporters last week to "an event and light dinner along with other community members to honor the life and legacy of a great friend and personal mentor, former Seattle City Council member Richard McIver." McIver died last month after a long illness.
The Harrell "event" is actually a campaign fundraiser, and the invitation strongly implies that the event has the late McIver's imprimatur.
Although McIver and Harrell were friends and neighbors (the two lived for many years a few doors from each other in Mount Baker), turning a McIver tribute into a Harrell fundraiser is startling. McIver is also still listed on Harrell's endorsement list.
4. An anti-Democratic attack ad and website (linking back to the Senate Republicans' budget as the preferred option) were briefly in play on Friday; activists were handing them out in the Capitol building and the a website was up and running.
The ad depicted greedy Democrats set on raising taxes.
The senate Republicans told PubliCola they didn't know anything about the campaign and the Public Disclosure Commission was unaware of any official campaign.
The website had disappeared by the end of the day Friday.