OLYMPIA – There’s more cooperation between the two political parties than in previous years, but not much chance that some of Gov. Chris Gregoire’s major reforms will make it through this legislative session, Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown said Friday.
Speaking with reporters at the end of the first week of the 105-day session, the Spokane Democrat said members of both parties are consulting and working together more than they have in years. Republican leaders made a similar statement on Tuesday.
“That’s real. That was true even before the tragedy in Arizona, that in difficult times like now … the public expects us not to focus on partisan differences,” she said. One move to give minority Republicans more say on the budget occurred the first day of the session, when the Senate ended a requirement that amendments to the general operating budget have a supermajority.
Neither party is willing to support Gregoire’s call to end state-sponsored Basic Health insurance for the poor or the Disability Lifeline that provides temporary payments to disabled residents. Gregoire told Senate Democrats Friday morning to come up with alternative cuts and “wished us well,” Brown said.
Asked how those programs are likely to survive, she replied: “It’s too soon to tell.”
While Democrats may agree to streamline and consolidate some natural resource agencies, they aren’t likely to agree to set up a new system to govern and raise taxes for Puget Sound ferries, Brown said. And they’re skeptical of Gregoire’s plan to consolidate all state education programs from preschool to graduate school into one massive Department of Education, although they don’t know the details.
“We haven’t got the bill yet. There is interest in the Senate in not having so many agencies involved in education,” she said. It’s not clear yet what major changes can be proposed, debated and passed in a session so focused on the budget, she added.