Former Washingon Gov. Dan Evans calls on the governor and Legislature to, finally, pass a capital budget and a fix for the state Supreme Court’s Hirst decision, which has halted development in some rural areas.
It’s time for Gov. Jay Inslee, together with Republicans and Democrats in both houses of the Legislature, to put partisanship aside and solve two pressing problems. Washington state needs a capital budget and a fix to the state Supreme Court’s Hirst decision, which has impacted homebuilding in rural areas.
As construction costs rise, every day that goes by without passage of the state’s capital budget means that taxpayers will pay more for building schools and other projects, and it means that needed construction is delayed.
Equally important is modification of the law in response to the Hirst decision. Hirst will shatter the American dream for some Washington state families because they may not be able to obtain water on the properties they purchased unless the Legislature enacts a solution to that decision.
A recent study by the Building Industry Association of Washington suggested that $6.9 billion in economic growth every year will be lost if the Hirst decision stands. Even if the assumptions in the analysis are exaggerated, and the court decision costs the state only $3 billion annually in economic activity, would that be acceptable? Of course not, especially in rural areas that are desperate for an economic boost.
Serving as Washington state’s governor for three terms, I learned that sometimes elected officials need to step out of their partisan comfort zones and provide leadership. I believe that Gov. Inslee and our legislators must do this right now. Doing so now on the capital budget and Hirst decision can set a positive example that will extend across our state and, possibly, even farther.
In Washington, D.C., and across America we see divisive, partisan fighting, name-calling and questioning of motives. We see too little evidence of problem-solving. Should we be surprised that our society seems to be breaking apart into warring camps when so much of the country’s leadership behaves this way?
Olympia can provide a positive model. There is an impasse. How we got here and who’s to blame — the people of this state don’t care. What they want, and what they deserve, is a solution to the impasse.
Gov. Inslee and the legislators have a duty to do more than point partisan fingers. They should put their energy toward solving both of these problems.
There are at least two viable options to resolving this in a timely manner now:
• The governor can call the Legislature back into session and publicly demand that both chambers allow the capital budget and Hirst bills to be voted upon, committing to sign those bills when they reach his desk. I am told that if the leadership in both chambers would merely allow legislators to vote, both bills would pass.
• The governor can publicly call the appropriate legislators from all four caucuses into his office, lead the negotiations and not allow anyone to leave until an agreement has been reached.
There is no political advantage spending time blaming and refusing to act. The time for a solution and leadership is now.
We are one Washington. Our state needs leadership for the whole state. The state’s political leaders in Olympia have an opportunity to provide a model of leadership that is distinct from that of Washington, D.C., one that shows that it is possible to bridge partisan divides.
The citizens of this state — children, seniors, city-dwellers and rural residents — all of us — will thank you.