In two weeks, the Washington State Labor Council will publish its 2015 Legislative Report and Voting Record summarizing the 2015 session and showing how state legislators voted on key working family issues. As of this writing, the longest legislative session in state history still hasn’t concluded, but here’s a sneak peek at that WSLC report:
OLYMPIA (July 2, 2015) — This is no way to run a state government.
In 2015, the Republican-controlled State Senate embraced the threat of a state shutdown to help Washington’s wealthiest avoid paying their fair share in taxes and to pursue an ideological anti-union agenda. In the end, after three costly overtime sessions and 26,000 pink-slip warnings sent to state employees, a budget agreement was reached with just hours to go before the shutdown was to begin on July 1.
It was a game of political chicken straight out of the GOP’s tea-party playbook in the other Washington, and it brought needless stress to thousands of state employee families and countless other people and businesses that rely on important state services. It also disrespected state employees by holding hostage their first raises in seven years to push anti-union collective bargaining bills straight out of the ALEC playbook.
What did Senate Republican budget negotiators, led by Sen. Andy Hill (R-Redmond), get out of it? They killed an effort to help fund schools though a capital-gains tax affecting a tiny fraction of the state’s wealthiest families. They avoided closing corporate tax loopholes for oil companies and other special interests by insisting on budget gimmicks, like assuming we’ll all be smoking a lot more marijuana. They retained America’s most unfair tax system, where low-income and middle-class workers pay more while the richest people pay the lowest taxes of any state in the nation.
As you’ll read throughout the WSLC 2015 Legislative Report, it was a theme that played out in most policy areas this year. Gov. Jay Inslee and the Democratic-controlled House pursued measures to address growing income inequality and to make state government function better. The Senate, with its two-vote Republican majority, obstructed those efforts while serving the selfish few at the top and pushing a politically motivated agenda.
But in the end, 2015 will be remembered as the year extremist Republicans decided their wish list was worth shutting the state down.