December 26, 2013 in Opinion

Editorial: Lawmakers should get something done or just leave early

 

The Spokesman-Review Editorial Board

Members of The Spokesman-Review editorial board help to determine The Spokesman-Review's position on issues of interest to the Inland Northwest. Board members are:

Mothball Olympia in 2014.

Gov. Jay Inslee’s supplemental budget would add all of $110 million to a tab for the 2014-15 biennium of $33.6 billion. Hardly moves the meter.

Many of the individual items contributing to the increase are legal or contractual commitments the Legislature can do little about. Others make discreet investments in efforts to lower school dropout rates, and increase science and technical education instruction from kindergarten into community college. Not much here to stir up a grand debate.

Cost-of-living raises for the state’s teachers and employees again fell to the cutting room floor. Salaries have been frozen since 2008, and educators were venting their frustration before Inslee could state the obvious: The revenue to support salary increases is not there, and projections don’t suggest the money will come anytime soon, certainly not while the Senate remains in the hands of the Republican-dominated bipartisan coalition.

The lawmakers and governor haven’t been able to compromise on a package of projects and funding for Washington’s transportation system, even though all sides acknowledge the need. A possible year-end special session to pass a pre-negotiated transportation bill has been spiked. The probability one might be called before legislators convene to address the supplemental budget is uncertain.

If transportation cannot be dealt with separately, odds of passage in even light legislative traffic may diminish as the session goes on.

And then there is the pending Boeing Co. decision on siting of a 777X production facility. Legislators in November did manage to rally to yet another tax package for the project – worth $9 billion through 2040 – but nothing may come of those concessions if the Machinists union will not accept a contract that freezes pensions.

Boeing officials say they expect to make a choice by the end of January. The Machinists are expected to vote next week.

Expect an epic round of finger-pointing if Boeing takes a walk, with its ugly consequences for a Washington economy that has so far managed only a weak recovery from the recession, according to the latest report from the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council.

No matter the call by Boeing, passage of a transportation bill would be the only major business item for the Legislature, although resolution of a dispute between the state and federal government on management of mental health programs could get sticky. The heavy lifting will resume in 2015, when Inslee and the Legislature will again have to boost education spending enough to satisfy a watchful Washington Supreme Court.

At least the 2014 session will begin without a deficit. With four-year budgeting now a requirement, damaging swings – up and down – should be a thing of the past. A Legislature that did not punch out until the end of June this year should be out of Olympia in a few weeks if member ambitions go no further than the governor’s.

They should come up with a transportation bill or come home.

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