On the Political Scale of Persuasion, Gov. Jay Inslee’s threat to veto bills the Legislatures has passed or will pass this session falls somewhere between being sent to bed without supper with a lobbyist on the high end and a good sound drubbing by a newspaper editorial on the low end.
Inslee, perturbed by the lack of progress shown by the Legislature in reaching agreement on a supplemental budget before the session is scheduled to end Thursday, threatened Monday to veto about 35 bills the Legislature has passed and do the same with more than 100 others that it’s likely to send him this week.
Inslee doesn’t have a “pocket veto.” Any bill he declines to sign becomes law after the passage of five to 20 days, depending on when they’re sent to him. For the threat to have any teeth, Inslee would have to expressly veto the bills.
“Your bills are going to get vetoed if you don’t do your job and pass a budget,” Inslee said during a press conference Monday.
Lawmakers barely looked up.
“I hope they’re not any he cares about,” said Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler, R- Ritzville.
Remember, this is the same group that is little impressed with a contempt of court order and a $100,000-a-day fine imposed by the state Supreme Court for failing to provide a detailed plan for how it will address the McCleary mandate to end the state’s reliance on local school levies to fund basic education.
Inslee’s frustration is understandable. This is a supplemental budget that is under discussion, an off-year addition to the regular two-year budget that was passed last year. It shouldn’t be this hard to come to agreement.
But beyond paying outstanding bills for fighting last year’s record wildfires, the Democratic-controlled House and the Republican-controlled Senate are split on other additions and how to pay for them. Democrats want to increase salaries for starting teachers and provide a small pay increase for current teachers that will begin to address a statewide shortage of qualified teachers; they would pay for it by taking millions from the state’s “rainy day” fund and by closing about $100 million in tax exemptions.
If lawmakers can’t find a compromise for a supplemental budget, the road gets no easier next year when the Legislature has to find the will and the revenue to fix McCleary. It took the Legislature a record three special sessions last year to reach a budget agreement. Shall we try for four next year?
Inslee’s veto gambit, if the Legislature doesn’t meet his deadline of reaching substantial agreement by midnight Thursday, threatens to undo important bipartisan legislation, bills supported by Inslee and the Democrats as well as by Schoesler and his fellow Republicans.
On the block are bills that would fund work to track rape kits and end the backlog at the state crime lab, keep the state’s charter schools open, reauthorize a program that prevents Medicaid fraud and many more. The vetoed bills would likely return next year, but vetoes would delay the good they can do now and only add to what the Legislature would have to do next year.
A better threat, and one that Inslee also made on Monday, would be for him to call a special session starting Friday, continuing until lawmakers complete their work. As long as they are in session, legislators — and that includes Inslee and other elected officials — can’t resume fundraising for their campaigns for fall’s elections.
That’s a threat that actually ranks high on the Political Scale of Persuasion.