Governor Refuses To Join The Crowd Lowry Calls On Lawmakers To Resist The Urge To Cut Taxes
In an uncharacterically somber State of the State Address, Gov. Mike Lowry urged lawmakers to show “vision and courage” by giving up more than $220 million in tax cuts.
His plea - ignored by the House the day before - was swiftly rejected Tuesday by the Senate, which sandwiched the Democratic governor’s address between votes in favor of the cuts.
“It just shows how out of touch the governor is,” said Sen. Dan McDonald, R-Bellevue, Senate minority leader. “He is an unrepentent, unreconstructed and unreconstructable liberal of the first order.”
Democrats were mostly lukewarm in their comments.
The Senate voted overwhelmingly to roll back the 1993 increase in the business and occupation tax by 50 percent, and cut the state share of the property tax by half.
The House did the same thing Monday by overriding Lowry’s vetoes of the same bills last session. Lowry has said he will veto the Senate bills again.
Lowry’s televised address featured none of his trademark armwaving, rapid-fire rhetoric.
The half-hour speech urged lawmakers to stay a balanced course: cutting taxes some, but not too much; protecting the environment while promoting economic growth; taking the long view in decision making, instead of posturing for the next election.
“The challenge before us today is to preserve and enhance what is working in our state, improve where we can and plan for the future with vision and courage,” Lowry said.
The governor drew his biggest applause when he called for a strong stand against discrimination of any kind.
He also asked lawmakers to raise the minimum wage, but didn’t mention his push to hike state employee pay.
Sen. Dwight Pelz, D-Seattle, called Lowry “a brave man. I agreed with everything he said, and he had the courage to say his peace in the face of what will be a lot of resistance.”
Republican leaders agreed. They were surprised by Lowry’s direct, explicit embrace of liberal views in such a high-profile forum.
“This is clearly in-your-face politics,” said House Speaker Clyde Ballard, R-Wenatchee.
Even leading critics said Lowry is playing a smart political hand, sticking with his long-held liberal views rather than shifting to the right to change with the political times.
“He looks like a statesman,” said Sen. James West, R-Spokane, who called for Lowry’s impeachment last session when the governor was embroiled in a sexual harassment scandal.
“He’s standing above the fray. I’ve always liked Mike Lowry for his consistency. His policies are passe, but you’ve got to admire him. He’s not pretending. And you know what - it’s going to win him the election.
“People admire people who stand for something, and Mike Lowry right now is standing for something. Everyone else is polling.”
Lowry has not said whether he intends to seek re-election.
Some of the state’s most high-profile conservatives say they believe the GOP would be crazy to underestimate his chances.
“I’m not ready to stick a fork in the guy. He’s a survivor, and probably the front-runner,” said Tom McCabe of the Building Industry Association of Washington, who has worked daily to skewer the governor since his election.
With the governor sticking to his guns, the GOP won’t be able to get much done without overriding Lowry’s inevitable vetoes of GOP policy, McDonald said.
“I think the governor definitely threw down the gauntlet.”