This Washington

The Democratic Disappointment

By Josh Feit July 19, 2011

Here's another excerpt from our interview with state Sens. Lisa Brown (D-3, Spokane) and Ed Murray (D-43, Seattle), the senate majority leader and ways and means chair, respectively—and basically the top dogs in the senate. [pullquote]It was just untenable to us to eliminate the social safety net, Basic Health Plan, and Working Connections child care program.---Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown[/pullquote]

At issue: Two of the biggest disappointments from the 2011 legislative session for the Democratic base—and by Democratic base, I mean labor unions and social service advocates.

The flops: A) Workers' comp reform legislation known as "compromise and release," which will likely result in lower payouts than are currently mandated and B) the budget, which came with $4.5 billion in cuts, and was framed early on when Gov. Chris Gregoire won high praise from the GOP for her "Republican" state of the state speech and her proposal to eliminate key programs, including the Basic Health Plan.

PubliCola: Has Gregoire been disappointing as a Democratic leader?

Brown: With respect to workers' comp, she made a choice, and she made that choice in consultation with Boeing and the business community. There was a very significant case, that I think was legitimate, that our out-year pension costs in our system were real outliers compared to other states. And we needed to figure something out there.

She could have made different choices that could have shaped that debate differently. I'm not going to sort of second guess that, but clearly the governor plays a very key role in either what's going to happen or not happen because she can say I'm going to veto this or that, and then that takes that off the table.

On the budget, I am willing to cut her personally a little more slack, in the sense that there wasn't a very long time frame to develop a set of alternatives. That being said, it was just untenable to us to eliminate the social safety net, Basic Health Plan, and Working Connections child care program as Democrats. Our caucus just could not see ourselves going there. And we knew that one way or another we would try to figure out an option that preserverd those basic programs.

Murray: And I would say that the budget she proposed, including the special-session early action items, were probably, in my opinion, not helpful.
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