I thought it was just my conspiracy theory. Noting that Roadkill Caucus leader state Sen. Steve Hobbs (D-44, Lake Stevens) was on the supplemental budget conference committee (the RKC is the conservative Democratic caucus), I theorized that the conservative coup in the state senate over liberal Senate Majority Leader Sen. Lisa Brown (D-3, Spokane) was complete.
(You'll remember that Hobbs and his conservative D colleagues commandeered the unemployment insurance vote, upending labor's demand for a permanent extra benefit for childcare and keeping the deal squarely focused on a permanent tax break for business.)
The Senate Democrats' numbers have shrunk enough this year, from 31-18 to 27-22, that the conservative Democrats are able to join ranks with the Republicans, as they did on UI, and run the show.
Act II: The budget negotiations. After all, why was Sen. Hobbs, who's not even a member of the ways and means committee, conferencing alongside ways and means chair Sen. Ed Murray (D-43, Capitol Hill) in the budget negotiations with the Republicans?
I'm not the only one who was theorizing about Hobbs role. At today's press availability with Sen. Brown, another reporter asked Brown a pointed question: Why was Hobbs in on the budget conference?
Brown's answer: She wanted "a broad representation of the caucus ... and he was interested." She concluded (and bear with me, because this is where my theory actually gets derailed into a new theory): "I think it shows the diversity of support for the budget," she said.
I asked Sen. Murray about Hobbs' position in the budget negotiations. Murray said Hobbs wasn't really too involved in the back and forth with the House or the senate Republicans—that he just showed up to sign off on it.
And here's the deal: Given the circumstances (the $1.1 billion shortfall), this week's supplemental budget deal actually leans a little to the left: It saves social services like the Basic Health Plan, the Disability Lifeline, children's health care, and the food assistance program. The cuts hit education. These are stark choices, and neither is attractive, but saving lefty social programs hardly translates into a conservative coup.
Given Murray's comment and Brown's ("it shows a diversity of support for the budget"), I'd now say liberal Brown used Hobbs and not vice versa. She put a Roadkill Caucus stamp of approval on a social services budget.
I also asked Hobbs about his alleged coup. He laughed, denied there was any real significance to his role and said simply: "I'm just a dude. I'm just a dude."
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