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Cost of legislative inaction mounts

The following editorial is from the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin.

When the state Legislature adjourned in July after three overtime sessions, its failure to approve a capital (construction) budget didn’t get too many folks upset. After all, they reasoned, what does it matter to me?

Well, it turns out there will be a direct impact: The cost of funding local government is going up, and those who pay utility bills will be paying more. That became painfully clear last week as the Walla Walla City Council authorized issuance of up to $23.66 million in bonds and bond anticipation notes.

This was necessary because the state didn’t pass the capital budget, which would have allowed the city to borrow for its water treatment plant and other projects. The city had to go elsewhere to borrow money at higher interest rates.

The result will be $430,660 in interest payments, which Walla Wallans will ultimately pay.

This was discussed in June and July as the likely scenario when lawmakers were playing political games in Olympia. The capital budget didn’t get approved because a compromise could not be reached on a fix for a court decision that essentially put the onus on local governments and property owners to determine if enough groundwater is physically and legally available before they issue building permits in rural areas.

The failure to reach a compromise was bipartisan. Republicans and Democrats could have – should have – found common ground.

Having to fork over more cash for utility payments will be happening in many communities across the state, not just Walla Walla.

Taxpayers (and ratepayers) ultimately have no choice but to accept this and pay the higher fees that will be levied.

“It’s just totally frustrating,” freshman state Rep. Bill Jenkin, R-Prosser, whose district includes the Walla Walla Valley, said in July when no deal could be made to fix the water decision and then approve the capital budget.

At that time, lawmakers weren’t too worried about any political fallout because they didn’t anticipate voters would make a connection between their failure and higher utility bills.

And, perhaps, most won’t.

Nevertheless, some will. Those who are annoyed need to speak up and let legislators know adjourning before getting the job done is unacceptable. Paying higher utility bills should be a reminder to lawmakers of the need to finish all their work.


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