By Jerry Cornfield
Washington lawmakers put the wraps on their 2014 session Thursday that may be better remembered for what they did not accomplish than what they did.
They passed a compromise budget on an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote that puts more money into public schools. They approved a historic law allowing undocumented immigrants to receive state aid for college and they froze tuition for a second straight year.
They didn’t raise taxes and, probably most importantly, they finished the 60-day session on time, barely. The gavels came down in the House and Senate at 11:53 p.m.
But there were setbacks that will overshadow their work.
Efforts to boost the minimum wage, eliminate tax breaks, provide teachers a pay hike and reforming workers compensation came up short.
A multi-billion dollar transportation spending proposal – their most anticipated undertaking when the session began in January – never came up for a vote triggering a blame game between Republicans on one side and Democrats, including Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, on the other.
Also, for the first time in years, a capital budget did not get passed, a victim of the power struggle between leaders of the Democratic-controlled House and Republican-run Senate Majority Coalition.
And it wasn’t the only bill derailed by the chamber’s philosophical differences.
A bill to change the state’s teacher evaluation program in order to retain a federal education waiver died. That could mean millions of federal dollars will be diverted from classrooms and hundreds of schools labeled as failing by the United State Department of Education.
And legislation merging the medical and recreational marijuana markets failed to pass in spite of last minute lobbying efforts by Inslee.
Inslee, speaking to reports after lawmakers adjourned, said there were some “big wins” in the short session on education and health care and “a lot left to be done” especially on transportation.
Without additional revenue from a package, the Department of Transportation “is going to have to do triage on what they can do,” he said. He said he expects reductions in ferry and bus service and reduced maintenance on highways as a result.
Inslee blamed the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus for the failure, suggesting they kept coming up with reasons not to reach agreement.
“If excuses were money, the Majority Coalition would be multimillionaires,” he said.
He also said he was “taken aback a little bit” at the resistance on the marijuana legislation and found it “regrettable” that the teacher evaluation bill he supported didn’t make it.