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April 3, 2013 at 3:37 PM

Bipartisan Senate budget a work in progress

The state Senate’s proposed 2013-15 budget is a valiant, if awkward, effort at bipartisan negotiation.

The effort is valiant because it strategically directs $1.5 billion to new education funding, including fully funding evidence-based ideas to help high-poverty schools, expanding full-day kindergarten and responding to the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision. These are the priorities promised by the Republican-dominated Majority Coalition when it upended Democrats’ control.

It ends ridiculous increases in college tuition, and adds needed money to the State Need Grant for low-income college students. It also reflects the tenuousness of our still-recovering economy by slowing overall spending.

But the budget’s failure to add any new revenue by extending existing taxes or closing of unjustified tax preferences, as The Seattle Times editorial board has suggested, results in unnecessary cuts to the poor and vulnerable. To make this a bipartisan budget — and not just a bipartisan negotiation — the Majority Coalition will need to budge from its ideological aversion to revenue.

In the spirit of bipartisanship, Democrats should ignore labor’s likely objections and take a hard look at the budget’s surprising use of Obamacare, which saves $128 million by shifting 20,000 part-time workers to the state-run health care insurance exchange.

The Senate has worked out bipartisan deals before. Sens. Andy Hill, R-Redmond, and Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, negotiated in good faith for months.

As Hill told reporters this morning, “We met 32 nights. We ordered 63 pizzas. We had three Chinese take-outs and my legislative assistant cooked up two Crock-pot dinners. In all, 16 senators were involved in budget building and writing. We had a small army of staff and 243 Diet Cokes. I did not drink them all.”

Nonetheless, the awkwardness was on display when Hargrove stepped in after Hill curtly answered a reporter’s question about the lack of funding for the politically contentious DREAM Act, which would have expanded the State Need Grant for students brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

“What you see is some of the tension that’s left,” said Hargrove. “Andy has some tension on his side, and I have some tension on my side. You guys are focusing some of the tension areas… We’re still trying to still like each other when we leave the press conference this morning.”

Here is video of the news conference from TVW.

Comments | Topics: Andy Hill, Jim Hargrove, majority coalition caucus

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