This Washington

Another Jolt: Chopp Slugs McKenna

By Josh Feit April 3, 2012

Democratic bill to eliminate early retirement option for new state employees, a GOP must-have, gets a hearing tomorrow.

I wasn't going to write about Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna's campaign move yesterday—he called a press conference to release his budget white paper. His ideas, released during the special session in Olympia to solve the $200 million budget problem, are essentially a recap of what his GOP colleagues—and McKenna himelf— have been talking about for a while. And some the of the ideas, such as a state takeover of K-12 employee health plans, are already part of the special session discussion.

The main components of McKenna's budget plan are:
• Giving the legislature a role in hashing out collective bargaining agreements with state employees, rather than their simple yea or nay vote on an agreement already worked out between the governor and state employees' unions;

• Privatizing some state functions;

• Increasing state employees' percentage of health care premiums (from the current 15 percent to 25); letting the state take over the school-district-by-school-district health care plans for K-12 employees; and transitioning state workers to  health savings accounts; and

• Streamlining government, including shrinking payroll through attrition of state workers.

Standard GOP stuff, and in fact, Democratic house budget leader Rep. Ross Hunter (D-48, Medina) even pushed for higher premium rates last year.

However, McKenna also blamed the Democrats for the budget impasse—for not agreeing to the GOP reform ideas. In particular, he blamed Democratic speaker Rep. Frank Chopp (D-43, Seattle) ... and, ka-pow, the story got interesting.

The Olympian had a report on McKenna's press conference with a Muhammad Ali quote from Chopp:
Rob McKenna doesn’t know what he’s talking about. His statements about the budget process in Olympia aren’t based in fact, and it’s disappointing that his comments are motivated by his political campaign.

The truth is that House Democrats have negotiated with the Republicans and the Senate in good faith throughout this process.

If McKenna were actually part of the solution being worked on, he’d have known that a number of the reform bills he refers to were already introduced by House Democrats this morning and are scheduled for a public hearing on Wednesday.

House Democrats are working in good faith to pass operating and capital budgets that fund education, create jobs, and save the safety net.

I checked on the reform bills that are being introduced to see how much of a knock-out quote Chopp delivered. The reform bills include several that are on the GOP's docket: one to eliminate early retirement subsidies for new state employees; one to stop funding I-728, the class size reduction initiative; one to take over K-12 health plans; and one for a balanced budget amendment.

The bills, particularly the pension change, don't precisely match the GOP version, but I'd have to agree with Chopp (and the Olympian) which gave the round to Chopp. "Score this one: Chopp 1, McKenna 0," the Olympian's Brad Shannon wrote.
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