First, do no harm. For legislators, there is no Hippocratic Oath because harm is relative.
The short 2014 legislative session, which ended late Thursday, could be measured in sins of omission — no transportation-funding package, for example, and no Washington Voting Rights Act. But harm is in the eye of the partisan beholder.
Good things flow from the supplemental operating budget that passed, including $58 million in supplies and operating costs to benefit elementary and secondary school students. Community mental health centers get a needed $20.3 million boost, and $5.2 million is directed to foster children scrambling to find permanent homes.
But divided government yields divided results. A handful of tax breaks should have been closed (a de facto, tax increase for a few industries, yes) to underwrite McCleary-mandated K-12 funding.
Legislators “needed to add $400 million to basic education,” state Superintendent for Public Instruction Randy Dorn said. “They needed to come up with a plan to meet McCleary by 2018, as the Supreme Court directed in a Jan. 9 order. And they needed to pass a bill to secure our state’s No Child Left Behind waiver. They did none of those things.”
Punting means the next biennium will be all McCleary, and it foreshadows a scolding, sanctions or both by the state Supreme Court this spring.
The horse trade that never rode in was resolution of the No Child waiver, ideally in exchange for a long-delayed cost of living adjustment for teachers. Teachers first became a proxy for bare-knuckle politics in the mid-1970s, before many current educators were even born. They deserve better.
Gov. Jay Inslee blamed the Senate Majority Coalition for the failure of a transportation package. Transportation co-chair Curtis King responded late Friday by releasing negotiating documents, accusing Inslee of “blatant and false accusations.”
Inslee, in perpetual campaign mode, could dial back the invective and leave the finger pointing to sanctimonious editorial boards. Senate Republicans could acknowledge that they never had the caucus votes to begin with.
Not making a decision is itself a decision. Not reconciling the medical marijuana industry and Washington’s soon-to-launch recreational marijuana operation is a train wreck that may provoke federal meddling.
One harm that can be undone is the premature demise of the Life Sciences Discovery Fund, which demonstrates a seven-fold return on investment. Inslee needs to veto the $20 million transfer from the LSDF and keep funds flowing for the rest of the biennium. An easy call that makes good economic and public-interest sense.