Opinion Columns & Blogs

Ingredients for bipartisan budget include revenue, pay raises

How many pizzas and Diet Cokes does it take to make a bipartisan budget?

That’s been a popular joke repeated around the Capitol the last few years. It pokes fun at our menu during the many long nights Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond, and I spent the last few years crafting state budgets that our two parties could agree on.

But when some folks tried to recycle the joke this year, it fell a little flat. Flat because about a month ago negotiations stalled and Republicans finished the budget on their own terms.

Hill and I agree on many things — we both dislike taxes, both agree the state needs a sustainable budget, and we both want to get out of Olympia as soon as possible. For two months we ate a lot of pizza, drank a lot of soda and agreed on the vast majority of the budget.

A few key issues stand in the way. Here’s where we disagree and why.

First, I believe civil servants deserve their first general wage increase since 2008. That raise was negotiated in good faith with the Governor’s Office and needs to be honored in our budget.

The Republicans, however, passed a budget that instead reduced the wage increase and took a swipe at health benefits for spouses.

Second, the Republican budget cuts temporary assistance to families in need — one of the last lifelines for those living in poverty.

Finally, I believe our existing resources aren’t enough to cover the state’s needs and fund our court-mandated obligation to K-12 education. I’m not alone in thinking this and I’m sure several Republicans realize it, too.

Take local levy reform, for instance. Among other things, the Supreme Court told us we can’t rely on local tax money to fund basic education anymore.

Two plans have emerged to solve this problem.

Senate Democrats have a plan that would raise most of the needed money by taxing the richest one-tenth of 1 percent of taxpayers in the state. The Republicans have been working on this issue as well. Their plan uses higher property taxes to make up the difference.

I can empathize — the local levy issue is complex and it will take careful thought and wise choices to find a solution.

As we double down on our efforts to find common ground in Olympia, we know the public is waiting and watching. It’s up to us to deliver.

I’m always up for more pizza. Andy, how about we split the bill?