The opening day ceremony for the 2010 House session was rife with pomp and circumstance with a color guard procession, singing of the national anthem, and prayer. Speaker of the House Seattle-area Rep. Frank Chopp (D-43) and Republican Minority Leader Chehalis-area Rep. Richard DeBolt (R-20) gave opening remarks outlining their visions for pulling Washington out of its dire financial straits.
The reps agreed on several priorities—education, health care—but Rep. DeBolt explicitly cited business as the key to success whereas Rep. Chopp was vague. “Now is not the time to make cuts in our need grants and opportunity grants for our students,” he said, in a roundabout way of endorsing taxes over cuts. (Rep. Chopp said late last year that he favors taxes, however).
Rep. Chopp highlighted the importance of retaining and even improving services despite the deficit, but didn't delve into specifics about paying for them.
Rep. Chopp also proclaimed that there will be health care for all children in the state by the end of the year as well as reforms to GAU. Those reforms would, according to the Rep., offer lifelines to physically and mentally disabled folks.
Finally, the Speaker raised questions about tax exemptions, cuts, and loopholes in a down economy and asked his colleagues to do the same.
His counterpart, Rep. DeBolt, was more specific. He agreed with Rep. Chopp that the state needs strong education and needs a strong environment, but, taking his party line, said that strong small business is essential to pay for the first two.
“Our budget is predicated on people working,” he said. “We need to do what we can to make Washington a healthy business environment.”
Citing a lack of trust in legislators, Rep. DeBolt also voiced a need for greater transparency and openness in Olympia.