Isn't it Weird That...


For today's installment of IIW That, I polled lobbyists and lawmakers and sources in Olympia for their take—during this momentary break in action (yesterday was cutoff day for policy bills)—on anything that seemed weird to them about the first half of the session.

I didn't get a lot of great responses. Most of the Democrats came back with the obvious stuff: Isn't it weird that the Majority Coalition Caucus talked all about bipartisanship but passed hotly partisan bills such as "reforming" workers comp while killing Democratic bills such as the Reproductive Parity Act?

Yawn. Not that weird.

1. The best response came from a Republican who shall go unnamed:

Isn’t it weird that the party that has been in control of Olympia at every level since the passing of paid family leave, and has never been able to fund it, all of a sudden comes up with a bill to expand the program (and pay for it) the first year they are no longer in charge of the Senate? Weird.

The unnamed Republican's point?

Sen. Karen Keiser (D-33, Des Moines) floated a bill to fund the family and medical leave act, the first time anyone has proposed funding it since the Democrats passed it in 2007. Keiser proposed extending the amount of time workers get (12 weeks instead of five) and paying for it with employer and employee contributions.

It was clearly nothing more than a message bill responding to the GOP proposal to take the unfunded program off the books, and it went nowhere. As the Democrats knew it would. In other words, when they were in control and had the chance to fund it...they didn't.

2. Today's other Isn't it Weird That comes to us from house appropriations chair Rep. Ross Hunter (D-48, Medina)—who's issuing his combative press releases again now that budget season has begun.

In this instance, he calls out the Republicans' education funding plan for, well, not fully funding education.

In response to the Washington State Supreme Court's McCleary decision (which said the state must stop underfunding K-12 schools), the house GOP released their education funding plan today—a $546 million K-12 funding increase this biennium that they'd fund with Obamacare Medicaid expansion (a $140 million savings paid for by the feds); taking the the family and medical leave act off the books, and cutting social services.

They also promised to: find about $100 million savings through "government efficiencies," including a 2 percent cut to state agencies; make about $200 million in budget transfers; and add about $80 million in new revenue (a tax!) by getting rid of a longstanding tax break for land line telecommunications companies (cell phone companies have sued because they have to pay the tax and the state could be on the hook for hundreds of millions if they don't level the playing field.)

"How can you have any pudding if you don't eat your meat?"—Rep. Ross Hunter

The $546 million increase for this biennium is shy of the $1.4 billion that the legislature's Joint Task Force on Education Funding recommended late last year.

But that wasn't main Hunter's beef. He accused the GOP of not understanding the basics of the McCleary decision, which explicitly said the state cannot rely on local levies—which account for about $3.6 billion per biennium of the nearly $18 billion the state already spends. The $546 million is mostly for new items such as class size reduction and all-day kindergarten, not the current basics.

Here's Hunter's official statement: 

Most importantly, the proposal shows a profound misunderstanding of the Supreme Court’s McCleary ruling. In addition to requiring the state to provide ample educational opportunities for students to meet our graduation requirements, the decision requires the state, not local taxpayers, to pay the costs of this. The House GOP proposal ignores key elements of the costs identified by the court, shifts significant costs into future biennia and is consequently unsustainable.

Paraphrasing himself to make the point that the Republican plan focused on new K-12 features while ignoring the basics, Hunter later told PubliCola, quoting Pink Floyd, "How can you have any pudding if you don't eat your meat?"