Democrats ready to ditch the other ‘grand bargain’ of 2021

Here’s what’s happening on Day 10 of the 2022 session of the Washington Legislature.

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2022 Washington Legislature, Day 10 of 60

Everett Herald political reporter Jerry Cornfield: jcornfield@heraldnet.com | @dospueblos

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OLYMPIA, Jan. 19 — Democrats and Republicans will rumble this afternoon over the long-term-care benefits program known as WA Cares.

They’ll be scrapping over a bill to put the program on hold and halt a payroll tax that some workers started paying 19 days ago. It will be an 18-month timeout. Democrats hope by then to erase concerns about the future solvency of their initiative to provide workers with money to defray the costs of long-term care. Republicans hope by then to kill the program as now designed, and maybe replace it with something else.

Spoiler Alert: House Bill 1732 will pass. It shouldn’t be close. There’s broad agreement the program is not ready.

What’s next: A quick pass through the Senate, then to Gov. Jay Inslee for signing, maybe late next week.

A side bargain to the Grand Bargain

Democrats negotiated amongst themselves for many, many hours last session to amass enough votes to pass a signature piece of their agenda, the Climate Commitment Act. To lock up votes of moderate Dems, language was added requiring action on a transportation package before enforcement of the bill’s carbon pricing system kicked in.

Inslee wanted no part of this. He vetoed the provision, clearing the way for a launch next year and future collection of hundreds of millions of dollars by the state.

Turns out, in the same piece of legislation, Democrats made another deal to sew up votes.

It is a separate provision that bars spending any of those proceeds unless, by April 2023, the lawmakers enact legislation from the Department of Ecology creating a path for emissions-intensive, trade-exposed businesses — think steel, concrete and aerospace manufacturers — to reduce their emissions by certain amounts through 2050.

House Bill 1682 is the legislation. It got a hearing Tuesday in the House Environment and Energy Committee. Firms it targets aren’t happy with it and want revisions. It’s no slam-dunk.

One proposed change didn’t stir debate — axing the spending prohibition. As proposed, the language put in a few months ago would be cut, allowing lawmakers to earmark use of those dollars sooner than later.

“We don’t need the link any more,” said Sen. Marko Liias, D-Everett, the chair of the Senate Transportation Committee. “It was there to get a transportation package. We are now working on a transportation package.”

Stay tuned.

Leaning forward

One of the architects of last year’s bargains was then-Sen. Steve Hobbs, a centrist Democrat from Lake Stevens. He insisted a portion of carbon money be spent in the state’s transportation system, and he wouldn’t budge, withholding his vote absent a guarantee.

He’s gone to the secretary of state’s office and is engaged in a whole different set of battles. In his first extended interview, Hobbs shared with Seattle non-profit news outlet Crosscut his resolve to take on the spread of misinformation about elections and his caution about Inslee’s proposal to jail politicians who lie about election results.

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