OLYMPIA - While Washington State Senate budget negotiators have participated in an inclusive process to produce the 2013-15 biennial budget, much work remains to be done according to Senate Democrats.
"I appreciate that fact that Sen. Hill offered a bipartisan process as he and the majority caucus created their budget. He has received our input and negotiated in good faith," said Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, as the ranking member on the Senate Ways & Means Committee. "However, whether or not the final budget is bipartisan depends on how the final votes come out."
“After a long series of negotiations the product presented to you today has the input of Democratic values in a Republican-majority budget,” said Sen. Sharon Nelson, D-Maury Island, and assistant ranking member on the Senate Ways & Means Committee. “We are by no means at a final product. This is the first step in the budget process and we look forward to continuing the discussion in public budget hearings and as amendments are brought forth. That additional process will prove very valuable to many Legislators and the public.”
Hargrove and Nelson agree that a fair and open negotiation process yielded many positive items in the Senate budget proposal, including:
- $1 billion investment toward the McCleary decision
- Full implementation of the Affordable Care Act
- Ratification of collective bargaining contracts
- An end to crippling cuts to programs assisting needy families
- Protection of family planning funding for low-income women
However, the Democratic Caucus negotiators expressed their hope that the final proposal will include steps to do more in the areas of K-12, higher education and help for some of our most fragile citizens.
“Certain aspects of this budget have support, but in the final budget many will have a desire to do even more for McCleary, for higher-ed and for services for our most vulnerable,” said Hargrove.
“I’m not yet satisfied by many aspects of this budget,” Nelson said. “We have looked long and hard over every area of state spending and believe me the only way to solve these problems is to add some sort of revenue into the mix. As we work together in the weeks ahead, I hope that can be accomplished.”
Those issues and others will be publicly debated as the Senate proposal goes before the Ways & Means Committee. Hargrove says the goal of Senate Democrats was to be involved in a collaborative process that moved the Senate closer to its obligation of passing a budget before adjourning for the year.
“I want to mention in particular Sen. Murray’s stalwart support of Sen. Nelson and me through the process. It is his leadership that got us this far. Gov. Inslee has already released his priorities and he’s started an important conversation about closing some tax breaks as part of the overall fix to our budget challenge’” said Hargrove. “The House will have its budget soon. And then all of us will need to work together to fulfill our constitutional obligation to the state as well as ensuring our Democratic principles are reflected in the final budget. “
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For more information: Ian Cope, Senate Democratic Caucus, 360-786-7535 and Nicole Vukonich, Senate Democratic Caucus, 360-786-7326
For interviews: Sen. Jim Hargrove, 360-786-7646 and Sen. Sharon Nelson, 360-786-7667