OLYMPIA — A week after the Legislature's overtime session wrapped up, Democrats accused GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna of delaying the final compromise by bringing politics into the process.
Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, joined members of the campaign for Democratic governor hopeful Jay Inslee to accuse McKenna of using the budget stalemate “for political purposes” to push reform proposals.
A spokesman for the McKenna campaign called the accusations “nonsensical.” McKenna did talk about budget principles he would follow as governor, but “didn't try to inject himself into day-to-day negotiations,” Charles McCray III said.
Murray and the Inslee campaign were merely being “protectors of the status quo,” McCray said. “It's the status quo mentality in Olympia that is the reason it took so long.”
McKenna did support a maneuver by all 22 Republicans and three breakaway Democrats late in the regular session that pushed through an alternative budget. Murray questioned how McKenna, who has called for increased spending on education, could support a budget that cut public schools and colleges.
McKenna later said he “wasn't thrilled” with the education cuts in that alternative budget, which later was revised in the House. At a campaign press conference during the third week of the special session, he said if he'd been involved in discussions over that alternative Senate budget “I would've gone to them and said 'Let's not make the education cuts.'”
At that press conference, McKenna accused Democratic leaders in general, and House Speaker Frank Chopp in particular, of holding up negotiations by refusing to allow votes on reforms.
The partisan lines over the reforms aren't so clear-cut. The original proposal on a four-year balanced budget, a constitutional amendment, came from a Senate Democrat, one of the three who joined Republicans on the budget vote.
Murray said that's a stricter rule than any state in the union has, and “forces you to predict something in the future that is almost unpredictable.” The negotiated settlement over the budget and reforms is a statutory requirement, with some exceptions, for a four-year budget, which would be easier to amend by future Legislatures.
“It took us to bring some common sense to it,” Murray said.
On his website, McKenna details a series of ideas to reform the budget process he would push as governor. But he doesn't mention balancing the budget for four years, rather than the current two years. At his press conference earlier this month, he said he supports a four-year balanced budget but “I don't know if it requires a constitutional amendment.”