Lawmakers know the drill: Avoid bruises in an election year. It’s a workable goal for politicians still dragging from three special sessions in 2013, and a restive electorate that conflates Olympia and Washington, D.C.
“Nothing is getting through that doesn’t look good politically,” one legislator said. (Sigh.)
As lawmakers convene Monday for the start of the short, 60-day session, education is the imperative, and the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision is the cudgel. Thursday, the state Supreme Court held up a mirror, warning that the Legislature needs to accelerate K-12 funding. At its current pace, Washington won’t achieve its mandated 2018 goals.
While the budget is in the black, the mantra is damage control. That could be a tough haul after shepherding the largest tax-incentive package in U.S. history for the Boeing Co. Wednesday, innovation and tech leaders, including Microsoft’s Brad Smith, wrote the governor and legislators. Message: We long for the Boeing treatment too.
“No one would argue with Boeing’s importance to our state economy,” they write. “However, it’s time for a similar economic development strategy focused on meeting the needs of Washington’s information technology, biotechnology and other innovation sector employers.” House Finance Chairman Reuven Carlyle, who hopes to reform the high-tech R&D tax credit, continues his campaign for greater revenue transparency.
There will be sins of omission, including a state transportation-funding package, which is inexcusable. Less gridlock and repairing a crumbling infrastructure are in the public interest.
At least one bipartisan bill, the Dream Act that gives aspiring citizens access to financial aid for education, demands quick approval. Sponsored by Rep. Zach Hudgins, the act is identical to the one signed Tuesday by New Jersey’s Republican Gov. Chris Christie. The House should try to pass the bill out in the first 48 hours and challenge the Senate to bring out the votes. Sen. Rodney Tom expressed support, and the Dream Act will test his capacity to deliver.
A promising sign is the long-term growth of WSU/Everett, the greatest legislative legacy of Reps. Hans Dunshee and Mike Sells. This session, regional lawmakers aim to secure $1 million in the 2014 supplemental operating budget to bring two more programs to the University Center of North Puget Sound, including a Bachelor of Science degree in software engineering.
WSU/Everett illustrates that public service is about getting things done. It’s OK to get bruised a little.