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July 11, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Poll: Should Washington lawmakers fine themselves for working overtime?

Senate Majority Coalition Caucus Leader Rodney Tom wants to motivate lawmakers to get their work done on time or face fines. Sounds like a gimmick. A bad one that doesn’t reflect much pride in the final budget passed by lawmakers earlier this month.

Majority Coalition Caucus Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina, meets with student lobbyists from the University of Washington to discuss higher education. (KEN LAMBERT/THE SEATTLE TIMES)

Majority Coalition Caucus Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina, meets with student lobbyists from the University of Washington to discuss higher education. (KEN LAMBERT/THE SEATTLE TIMES)

The Washington Legislature certainly tested our patience when they failed to reach a budget deal by the end of the regular session. That they teetered on the edge of a government shutdown is unfortunate. But there’s a bottom line: The final bill lawmakers passed turned out to be better than the alternatives considered in earlier weeks. (Why? Read more analysis in this July 2 editorial commending lawmakers for finding the “political center” in the final bill.)

Here’s an excerpt from Seattle Times reporter Andrew Garber’s Wednesday news story:

Tom created a buzz after broaching the idea of a $250-a-day fine for each day lawmakers go past the time allotted in the regular session.

“We need a forcing mechanism, and right now, there really is not one,” Tom said Tuesday. “I think it’s crazy that it comes down to notices to state workers that we’re going to shut down state government as the only forcing mechanism that gets us out of town.”

House Appropriations Chairman Ross Hunter, D-Medina, disagreed with Tom’s idea. “I just don’t think it works,” Hunter said.

Is Tom trying to apologize in some way for taking too long to adjourn sine die? They definitely took way too long to compromise, but I don’t buy the idea that lawmakers will ever penalize themselves for taking a few extra weeks to understand a complex state budget that affects millions of Washingtonians over two years. One person I talked to said the outcome of this year’s legislative session reminded him of a basketball game that goes into double overtime. A win is a win, no matter what it took to get there. All sides fought hard. The final operating budget was worth the wait. Democrats didn’t get all the revenue they wanted and social issues (such as the Reproductive Parity and DREAM acts) will have to wait another year for passage. Republicans and members of the Majority Coalition Caucus didn’t get workers’ compensation reform or principal empowerment reform.

None of those issues took precedent over education funding, which fared better this year compared with previous sessions. So if you ask me, Tom’s idea of punishing lawmakers for moving too deliberately is unnecessary.

What do you think? Take our poll.

0 Comments | Topics: Rodney Tom, state budget, Washington State Legislature

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