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WA Legislature Convenes

Austin Jenkins
01/14/2008

The Washington legislature convenes today [Monday] for a 60–day session. There's one–party Democratic rule and a one–point– four billion dollar budget surplus. But with Governor Chris Gregoire up for re–election – you might say the theme of this session is: "Get in, Get out, Nobody Gets Hurt – politically." Olympia Correspondent Austin Jenkins reports.

TRANSCRIPT

IN THE WORDS OF ONE DEMOCRATIC POLITICAL CONSULTANT, THE JOB OF MAJORITY DEMOCRATS THIS SESSION IS TO AVOID HANDING REPUBLICAN DINO ROSSI ANY AMMUNITION. ROSSI NARROWLY LOST TO GREGOIRE IN 2004 AND IS BACK THIS YEAR ANGLING FOR A REMATCH. AT A LEGISLATIVE PREVIEW FOR REPORTERS AND EDITORS IN OLYMPIA, THE GOVERNOR MADE IT CLEAR – LIKE A GOOD PARENT – SHE'S SETTING FIRM EXPECTATIONS WITH LAWMAKERS.

GREGOIRE: "This afternoon I will meet with some leadership and I will remind them it is a very short legislative session. I will remind them as well it is a supplemental budget session."

THAT MEANS THE GOVERNOR WANTS TO KEEP A LID ON NEW SPENDING. GREGOIRE HAS PLEDGED TO LEAVE MORE THAN A BILLION DOLLARS IN THE BANK FOR NEXT YEAR. SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE FRANK CHOPP OF SEATTLE SAYS THE DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP IS ON BOARD WITH THAT GOAL.

CHOPP: "We have a very good working relationship with the Governor and her office as well as with the Senate. So we'll achieve that goal and be fiscally responsible."

THE NOTION THAT DEMOCRATS ARE CLAIMING THE FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY MANTLE FLOORS MINORITY REPUBLICANS.

PFLUG: "The horse is out of the barn."

STATE SENATOR CHERYL PFLUG IS DEPUTY REPUBLICAN LEADER. SHE SAYS SINCE GREGOIRE TOOK OFFICE, THE STATE BUDGET HAS GROWN BY THIRTY–THREE PERCENT.

PFLUG: "That's five–point–seven million dollars a day more, four–thousand for a family of four. We are on track to squander the largest surplus in the state history and end up with a six–hundred million dollar deficit using the Governor's own projections."

IT'S TRUE THE GOVERNOR'S BUDGET OFFICE PROJECTS THE STATE WILL BE BACK IN THE RED BY 2011. BUT DEMOCRATS SAY THEY'VE MADE WISE SPENDING CHOICES OVER THE PAST SEVERAL YEARS – ESPECIALLY IN EDUCATION AND CHILDREN'S HEALTHCARE.

BESIDES PASSING THE SUPPLEMENTAL BUDGET, THE DEMOCRATS' PRIORITY FOR THE NEXT 60–DAYS IS TO PASS THE GOVERNOR'S ELECTION–YEAR AGENDA. GREGOIRE HAS A SERIES OF VOTER–FRIENDLY SAFETY INITIATIVES DEALING WITH CAMPUS SAFETY, PATIENT SAFETY AND PROTECTION FROM SEX PREDATORS. MAJORITY DEMOCRATS ALSO HAVE THE NATION'S MORTGAGE CRISIS ON THEIR MIND.

THAT'S WHY THIS YEAR SENATE MAJORITY LEADER LISA BROWN SELECTED 'OUR HOUSE' AS THE SESSION THEME SONG, AN ANNUAL TRADITION.

BROWN: "I think 2473 foreclosures in November in Washington State – so I think that's why it's an appropriate theme song because it's a problem and it's one we want to address."

BUT THE GOVERNOR'S BUDGET ONLY OFFERS A MILLION–AND–A–HALF BUCKS FOR CONSUMER EDUCATION AND COUNSELING. THE BIG MONEY – 50 MILLION – WOULD GO TO THE HOUSING TRUST FUND. IT BUILDS, BUYS AND REHABS LOW INCOME HOUSING.

ON THE TRANSPORTATION FRONT, KEY LAWMAKERS SAY IT'S TIME TO GET SERIOUS ABOUT HIGHWAY TOLLS. JUDY CLIBBORN, CHAIR OF THE HOUSE TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE, SAYS THE STATE NEEDS TOLLS TO BUILD AND MAINTAIN ITS ROADS.

CLIBBORN: "And it is a tolling bill that does not institute tolling. But it's a policy bill, it talks about if you were going to toll something this is how you would do it."

REPUBLICANS COUNTER THAT WASHINGTON NEEDS A WHOLE NEW APPROACH TO TRANSPORTATION. SENATOR DAN SWECKER IS THE RANKING REPUBLICAN ON THE SENATE TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE. HE SAYS IT'S ALL ABOUT ONE THING:

SWECKER: "Congestion relief has to be the priority. Anything that's not about congestion relief is a waste of time."

THERE ARE ALWAYS WILDCARDS IN A LEGISLATIVE SESSION. BUT MAJORITY DEMOCRATS SEEM COMMITTED TO KEEPING THINGS SHORT AND SWEET. WITH THE GOVERNOR UP FOR RE–ELECTION AS WELL AS HALF THE SENATORS AND ALL HOUSE MEMBERS THE MAIN GOAL IS TO GET THROUGH UNSCATHED. I'M AUSTIN JENKINS IN OLYMPIA.

© Copyright 2008, KPLU

01.19.18

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