March 25, 2010

Pressure on legislature to fold up and go home - could be good, could be bad

The governor and the Seattle Times editorial page have hit lawmakers with a one-two message this morning that the Legislature has overstayed its welcome and it’s time for them to compromise and go home.

As you know, the Legislature is in the 11th day of a special session that could go to 30 days under law. The governor wanted them done after seven. The Times says the budget crisis can’t be that urgent because lawmakers missed a crucial deadline to impose some taxes April 1 at a loss of $15 million.

And most legislators aren’t even in Olympia. They’ve been sent home on a “rolling recess” while legislative leaders negotiate a final deal that resolves differences in the House and Senate budget and revenue packages.

But we know much is at stake.
  • The governor says if lawmakers don’t get a deal by the end of the 30-day special session, she will not call them back. Instead, she’ll revert to her December “all-cuts” budget and inflict cuts of 20 percent across the board. All the progress you, our allies and responsible legislators have made to save institutions, safety net programs, public safety, health care and much more will go out the window. 
  • The Seattle Times, an annoying, often off-base but influential source of information for decision makers, said lawmakers agree on the amount of the revenue package – about $800 million – just not whether it should be based on a sales tax increase (Senate) or targeted hikes (House and governor). Under a headline titled, “Compromise and get out of Olympia now,” the Times said it’s “time for state leaders to put their differences aside, pass the revenue package and get out of Olympia.”
    But if legislators fold under such pressure, very likely you, your families, the vulnerable, public safety and much more will be thrown under the bus.

    So we need to keep the pressure on and on and on. All agree the deadlock over revenue has gone on too long. Frustration is growing. It is time to come to an agreement on revenue—but it has to be the right agreement that doesn’t throw the safety net and state employee families under the bus.

    We know you may have contacted your legislators in many ways and at many times already. But with the rolling recess, they need to keep hearing from you. Otherwise, in the fog of the budget and revenue war, they will forget and you will end up under the bus.

    We can’t let that happen.   So here are the important calls to action:
    • HEALTH CARE:  Call 1-800-562-6000. Tell legislators to fund state worker health insurance with at least $65 million in General Fund-State funds in the final budget (ESSB 6444) for state employee health care. And no mandate to bargain over premiums! Instead, close tax loopholes on big out-of-state banks in the final state budget (ESSB 6444) so we can keep health care funded, stable and affordable for our families.
    • FURLOUGHS:  The ball is in the House’s court. The Senate re-passed the furlough bill, it’s still alive on the House floor, and the proposed House amendment to take away your personal holiday is still in play. Tell your legislators: OPPOSE ESSB 6503, the state employee furlough bill.
    • REVENUE AND LOOPHOLES:  Urge legislators to raise revenue and close tax loophole in the final state budget, ESSB 6444.
    If you want more specifics:
    Add $150 million in additional revenue by supporting HB 3181 (the Clean Water Act of 2010) to increase the tax on hazardous substances and HB 3021 (establishing the Medicaid nursing facility quality assurance trust fund).

    Raise $50 million by closing the tax exemption big banks—mostly based outside this state—receive on first home mortgages.
    • RESIDENTIAL HABILITATION CENTERS:  Urge your legislators to oppose SB 6182, the RHC wipeout bill.
    • INSTITUTIONS CLOSURES:  The Senate and House budgets are far apart, and this is an area where a rush to a final compromise could throw institutions under the bus. The Senate generally wants to close more state RHCs, JRA facilities and Corrections centers than the House. But they’re all at risk in the short term (Frances Haddon Morgan Center, Maple Lane School, Pine Lodge Corrections Center for Women) and long run (all RHCs, most JRA, Pine Lodge). Urge your legislators to oppose closures of state institutions in the supplemental budget (ESSB 6444)!
    You can also e-mail your legislators and call their offices directly. Here’s how:
    Go to  the state Legislature’s site ( and click “Find Your Legislator” at ( ) and put in your address, city and zip. You’ll then get the names of your three legislators with phone number and a link to send an e-mail.

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