Saturday, February 05, 2011

Bipartisanship in Olympia!

There was a tectonic shift in Olympia yesterday. The Senate Democrats allowed the Republicans to take part in crafting state policy. Elections do have consequences. Their margin is smaller - and the problems are larger.

They put together relief for businesses on unemployment and the state budget - together. Now are the Democrats in the House ready to move ahead with the bipartisan bills? Or will they insist on taking the full burden, credit and blame on themselves?

Erik Smith Washington State Wire
What happened on the unemployment bill was most dramatic. Lawmakers rejected a move by the state’s labor unions that would have increased their leverage later in this year’s legislative session. The Senate passed SB 5135 in the form originally proposed by Gov. Christine Gregoire, providing a $300 million tax break for businesses, and allowing the state to use federal money to provide extended unemployment benefits for 69,000 of the state’s long-term jobless.

At the same time, the Senate passed a spending-cut bill that is remarkable for the fact that it was crafted by both Republicans and Democrats. Until this year, Republicans have been shut out of the process.

Those are the broad strokes of what lawmakers did Friday – but it took plenty of arm-breaking to get them there.

...[On unemployment] The real fight in the Senate came two days ago, when Republicans and centrist Democrats teamed up and shot down an unemployment bill that had been crafted to labor’s liking in the Senate Labor and Commerce committee. It was a moment of high drama, as Senate Democratic leaders urged members to stay in line and six Democrats said no.

The Budget
The budget measure, House Bill 1086, didn’t provoke the same sort of fight – mainly because Democratic leaders knew it was coming and reached across the aisle in advance. Lawmakers this year are struggling to cut projected state spending by a whopping $5 billion, and Senate Ways and Means Chairman Ed Murray, of Seattle, brought in the Senate Republicans’ budget guru, Joe Zarelli of Ridgefield.
This one takes a modest step toward the goal, closing the gap by $394 million through a combination of fund transfers and spending cuts in the current 2009-11 budget. The big debates come later.

But because Republicans were included, the result was a spending-cut bill that incorporates a number of ideas the GOP has advocated. Among other things, it maintains the state’s Basic Health Plan for the working poor, but it imposes a freeze on new enrollments and an eligibility requirement. It also cuts state stipends for the disabled under the state’s “Disability Lifeline” program, but maintains medical benefits. The measure passed the Senate 38-9
Can the House work together also? Obama wants Bipartisanship. Read Smith for the full account.

No comments: