Washington Senate Democrats have proposed a budget writing team designed to include differing viewpoints in a narrowly divided Senate.
Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, has been recommended by the Senate Democratic Caucus to serve as the new chair of the Senate Ways & Means Committee. Sen. Sharon Nelson, D-Maury Island, received her caucus' recommendation as vice-chair of the committee, which is instrumental in prioritizing funding for state services from education to public safety.
Hargrove comes to the position as the Senate's most experienced legislator, having served for more than 20 years as chair and ranking member of the Senate Human Services & Corrections Committee, where he helped build compromises which supported major reforms in Washington state’s criminal sentencing, prison system and community supervision services.
“I believe Sen. Hargrove is the right person to lead the committee, based on his years of experience, his expertise, and my belief that we need all points of view represented in our leadership,” said Senate Majority Leader Ed Murray. “We are attempting to create a leadership team that brings Democrats together – moderate, liberal, urban, suburban and rural.”
“To receive my colleagues’ recommendation to chair this committee is a great honor, opportunity and responsibility. I want to thank Sen. Murray for his friendship, his belief, and his faith in me and I look forward to working with him, Sen. Nelson and our colleagues in both caucuses,” said Hargrove. “I’ve always believed in putting our state’s valuable resources where they will do the most good and using the systems and services that have been proven to work.
We’ve seen positive results from these practices in our human services and corrections programs, and I believe we can see the same results as we work together to create the budget for this and future biennia.”
Nelson, a former bank vice president who also helped draft budgets when she served on the staff of the King County Council, was recommended to join Hargrove as committee vice chair. In the past legislative session, Nelson served as the chair of the Senate Environment Committee, and she champions issues particularly important to women and working families.
“We have major budget issues before us – not only fully funding a quality K-12 education but ensuring our younger kids are ready to start school,” Nelson said. “I look forward to working with Sen. Hargrove and the rest of the Senate as we take on those issues.”
Hargrove is a forester who represents many rural communities on the Olympic Peninsula and near Grays Harbor, while Nelson is a longtime environmental advocate who represents West Seattle, Burien and North Highline in addition to Vashon Island.
“While we come from different backgrounds, I believe that the partnership of Sen. Nelson and I would represent the combination of different ideas working for the common good,” said Hargrove. “We have serious challenges ahead of us and a narrowly divided chamber. However, working together, I know that we can overcome these problems and make a better Washington.”
The chair of the Senate Ways & Means Committee is the lead writer of the state’s budget, including revenue considerations and shaping the capital budget. The chair’s traditional primary task is the two-year state operating budget, which is expected to include $32.5 billion in state general funds in 2013-15.
The vice chair of the committee is traditionally charged with writing the state’s capital construction budget, which funds educational, environmental and economic development construction projects statewide.