hen three Senate Democrats aligned with Republicans to advance a bipartisan supplemental 2011-2013 budget proposal Friday, March 2 in Olympia, it was intended to spur stagnant budget negotiations.
“Here we are a few days from the end of the regular session and nobody has moved the budget in the sense of the Senate, which then hasn’t allowed conversation,” said Sen. Joe Zarelli (R-18th, Ridgefield) Ranking Minority Member on the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Friday.
Senator Ed Murray (D-43rd, Seattle) had announced a Democratic budget proposal on Feb. 28 built around avoiding cuts to K-12 and higher education funding on the back of a $330 million apportionment delay on payments to school districts, which opponents called an accounting gimmick.
Zarelli said his budget was crafted with the intent of spending no more than the forecast amount of incoming revenue while leaving a reasonable amount of money in reserves and avoiding such “gimmicks.”
Armed with the 25-strong philosophical majority, the bipartisan group invoked a procedure known as the “Ninth Order” during Friday’s floor session that allowed them to call up their budget.
The budget passed 25-24 after midnight Friday (Saturday morning) after extensive debate. It was manifested in the form of a striking amendment to the Governor’s budget, ESB 5967, put forth by Zarelli. The amendment passed by the same margin.
“It is my belief that the Senate bipartisan budget is the superior proposed operating budget,” said Sen. Jim Kastama (D-25th, Puyallup), who, along with Sens. Rodney Tom (D-48th, Medina) and Tim Sheldon (D-35th, Potlatch), joined Republicans on Friday to pass the measure.
“While it makes larger cuts this year than other proposals, over time it will provide more stability. Even though it will deliver less in services, it will not cripple our ability to responsibly address our core responsibilities,” Kastama said.
There is a philosophical difference between those who want to enact a budget that closes the nearly $1 billion shortfall in a way that they are sure will be sustainable moving forward and those who don’t mind creative accounting to protect social services and education funding.
“If we ever want to get ahead of our budget crises, our state needs wholesale government