Jerry Cornfield Herald Columnist
Gov. Jay Inslee lives for days like Tuesday.
He arrived in a conference room of reporters wearing his gubernatorial uniform of dark suit, white shirt and blue tie to proclaim the need for a second special session because lawmakers failed miserably in the first.
Initially, some said they observed frustration in his face and heard irritation in his voice.
More likely, he was just warming up his facial muscles and vocal chords because moments into his comments, the rookie Democratic governor delivered one mean whomping to the Republicans controlling the actions of the Senate.
He pounded away with a series of verbal haymakers then moved in to apply a submission hold by blaming them for conducting ideological warfare and driving Washington toward a partial government shutdown.
Inslee’s face read stern and his tone serious but he had to be smiling on the inside.
After five months on the job, Inslee finally got to rap on Republicans as he often did in his days as a nearly anonymous member of Congress. Washingtonians need wonder no more about Inslee’s approach to leadership. He’s a Democrat, not a diplomat.
Tuesday’s 30-minute performance shows he’s shed any semblance of impartiality in negotiating a final budget agreement, enlisting with House Democrats for the final battles. (No one could be happier than those Democrats, many of whom often felt his predecessor didn’t have their back on fiscal issues and too quickly ceded principle for a go-home arrangement.)
The Majority Coalition Caucus in the Senate may in fact submit and tap out soon though not as a result of Inslee’s tongue-lashing but their political maneuvers.
For 105 days of regular session and about 25 of the first overtime, every member of this caucus kept their blood oath against taxes in spite of constant haranguing by Inslee, House Democrats and reporters. They stayed true to their demand for reform before revenue.
Such steadfastness earned them public acclaim in some quarters of the state. It also forced House Democrats to significantly shrink their tax-raising proposal and even ponder a no-tax budget.
Then late last week, the Senate coalition’s 23 Republicans and two conservative Democrats changed course by announcing a willingness to support what they deemed new “resources”.
In so doing, they crossed the Rubicon on taxes and can’t go back. And they’ve likely conceded the biggest bargaining chip they held for advancing a trio of reform bills they really want.
Veteran senators in the coalition can probably see now how this will play out.
The coalition will pass its reform bills knowing the House will ignore them.
Next Tuesday, a new revenue forecast will be released showing tax collections for the next budget will be slightly higher than predicted in March. This news should enable the House to trim its tax package down to where it may be the right size for the Senate.
Then Democratic and Republican leaders in the two chambers and the governor will go through the budget, sometimes line-by-line, horse trading along the way.
The House may have to ax its $100,000 allotment for setting up a program to provide state aid to college-bound illegal immigrants. The Senate may have to agree to spend $200,000 to keep the Office of Aerospace operating.
This is how budget agreements get reached. It’s governing at its most tedious.
Inslee won’t find it much fun and will surely long for a lot more days like Tuesday.
Political reporter Jerry Cornfield’s blog, The Petri Dish, is at www.heraldnet.com. Contact him at 360-352-8623 or firstname.lastname@example.org.