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WA Lege SpecSess: GOP leaders wait, fume

OLYMPIA -- Republican leaders of both house in the Legislature showed clear frustration with the pace -- or lack of it -- thus far in the special session.

A few minutes after the state Senate recessed for the day, GOP leaders in the House and Senate held their weekly "sit down" with the news media to insist they were being shut out of the process of writing a budget and tax plan. Democrats who control both houses and the governor's office are in charge, and aren't telling them nothing, they said.

That's no surprise, they said. But they apparently aren't telling each other very much, either, and there's no reliable schedule that anyone can look at to see what or when something might happen.

"We' ve been here 60 days and we haven't been involved in the budget yet," Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, said. "But you would think they'd talk to each other."

Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, pointed ot a schedule for today's Ways and Means Committee that lists a series of bills that might be heard, if they are referred to the committee. "Either you're going to do these things or  you're not," he said.

They're clearly hoping that whatever combination of tax increases and program cuts comes out of the special session will give them a big boost in the November elections. "I promise we will not operate like this," Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla said.

So if they do take over in 2011, are they promising right now to repeal any taxes imposed this year?

"Probably not," Hewitt said. "We'd have to look at the budget and see where we're at."

They also sought to answer a challenge from Gov. Chris Gregoire, issued last Thursday evening when she called for a special session amid criticism from Republicans that Democrats had wasted the regular session and were forced into "costly and embarassing" overtime. Gregoire challenged them to show a state that has done a better job.

On Wednesday, the GOP thought they had the state...

 

New Jersey.

The governor in that state, Republican Chris Christie, is calling for many of the same things Washington GOP want, like reform, reduced spending, lower taxes. They passed out some three pages of quotes from Christie's budget speech to the Legislature.

Problem is, Christie's speech was Tuesday, and some of the things on the sheet are just his ideas. The N.J. Legislature has yet to act, so many of the reforms still need approval...so his efforts to close that state's budget defict is, at best, a work in progress.

New Jersey also has a much different tax structure than Washington, which includes an income tax. Republican leaders said they weren't suggesting Washington change its system for Jersey's.

A Senate GOP caucus spokeswoman later clarified the handout, saying that Christie has cut some things and looked at ways to let businesses compete with government for some services, while other thing are proposals from his budget speech that will need legislative approval.

"Bottom line, the handout was meant to illustrate two different ways to approach state spending and reform – Washington’s governor and Legislature have made very few reforms and are proposing to raise taxes," Rebecca Japhet said. "New Jersey’s governor is showing leadership by proposing bold actions that will make their budget sustainable over the long term. It’s a contrast of thinking – and illustrates that many of the reforms Washington state Republicans have proposed are being seriously considered in other state governments."   




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Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981. He is currently the political reporter and state government reporter in the newspaper's Olympia bureau office.

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