Opinion

Dahlquist applauds passage of bipartisan Senate budget | Legislature

By Rep. Cathy Dahlquist

On March 2, even those of you who wouldn’t normally follow the legislative process tuned in online at tvw.org to watch history being made. A bipartisan coalition of senators came together to change the direction of our state.

Three brave members bucked their party leadership and agreed to support a minority party budget proposal. What followed was a number of procedural motions on the Senate floor that pulled the governor’s budget from last November to the Senate floor along with an amendment to adjust the spending plan to match with the core priorities of government – education, public safety and services for the most vulnerable.

The result was a balanced, sustainable and responsible budget passing the Senate – the first budget of its kind in years.

It was surprising to hear majority members decry a lack of transparency in the process. These are the same legislators that have been lambasted in the press for their antics, such as introducing blank bills and holding hearings on them. To wail about a “lack of transparency in the process” is hypocritical at best. Jason Mercier of the non-partisan think tank, Washington Policy Center, has dogged this issue for years.

Here’s an excerpt from a recent column he authored: “Despite only two hours’ notice of a hearing on blank bills, many education special-interests groups were all too ready to testify on the “details” of this mysterious bill. These details appeared later as amendments placing the text of the stalled teacher-evaluation bills into the blank title-only bills. Either these lobbyists are clairvoyant, or they were given special access to information that was denied to the public.”

The good that came out of this is now the public can see clear contrast in how their money is being spent. They can decide to stick with the status quo that has produced deficits year after year, or step out of the box with bold leaders who are willing to make the tough choices today to get the state back on strong financial footing. It’s that simple.

Now, the budget debate is in the House of Representatives. The House Democrats’ budget plan uses gimmicks, such as delaying $405 million in payments to our schools. The Senate budget that was passed doesn’t gamble on new tax increases to fund our schools or services for the elderly and disabled.

Over the past two years I have represented the 31st Legislative District, Democrat Gov. Chris Gregoire has called three special sessions, each aimed at addressing massive budget shortfalls. Each of those costly sessions failed. We cannot continue spending more than we take in, and three brave senators in the majority party came to that same realization this year. I applaud them for standing up for what they believe in!

Frankly, I’m excited to finally witness leadership in the Legislature. The bipartisan budget passed out of the Senate is not perfect, but it is the start of a long-overdue discussion on what state government can and cannot afford. We know citizens are funding their highest priorities with their first dollar, and government should do the same.

The collaborative Senate budget represents many difficult choices, doesn’t use gimmicks, and puts us on a path to financial stability.

Leadership is about a legacy, not allegiances. My hope is the leadership shown in the Senate will have a lasting legacy of accountability and responsibility in the Legislature for generations to come. The bipartisan Senate budget moves us closer to realizing that goal.

Rep. Cathy Dahlquist is serving her first term as a state representative in the 31st Legislative District. She is the assistant ranking Republican on the House Education Appropriations and Oversight Committee. She was also appointed to serve on the House Education, Rules and Technology, Energy and Communications committees.

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