Washington state lawmakers have made their partisan points. Now they do the hard work of legislating, writes Sen. Kevin Ranker.
WASHINGTON lawmakers face a task critical to the future of our state and every one of the 1 million children attending our public schools.
The state Supreme Court’s 2012 McCleary decisiontold us only what we already know: Our students deserve an education system that is fully, equitably and sustainably funded and that invests in excellence and opportunity for every student, no matter their background or ZIP code.
Since then, Democrats and Republicans have made some strong initial steps toward providing additional resources for our public schools. But these steps, while necessary, have not been enough, and we are running out of time. We must rise to the occasion and finish the job, together.
However, at the start of the second special session, Democrats and Republicans are still far from agreement.
While leaders in the Republican-controlled Senate and the Democrat-controlled House are close to agreeing on the amount we must spend on our children’s schools, we disagree on how to pay for it.
The Republicans propose a property tax increase that impacts different parts of the state in different ways, with some communities seeing large tax increases, not just in Puget Sound but also across the state in rural and suburban Washington.
The Democrats, on the other hand, propose to use new revenue raised through business tax changes, a high-earners capital gains tax and closing corporate tax loopholes that are no longer effective.
Each side dislikes the other’s proposal for a variety of reasons. But in the end, the Republicans do not have the votes for their proposal in the House, and the Democrats do not have the votes for their proposal in the Senate.
So, how do both sides move forward from here?
Through basic, old-school, increasingly out-of-fashion legislating. Senate Republicans have publicly stated they will not join us in negotiating a final budget, but a solution cannot be reached without them. If we are to meet our paramount duty and build a thriving educational system, we cannot remain in ideological corners, we must be willing to come to the table and work together to find a solution.
Picking your positions and proclaiming your priority issues — that’s the easy part of being a lawmaker. Taking your priorities and being willing to put in the work to actually get something done — that’s the hard part.
And it does not happen by insisting that you are right and the other side is wrong, or trying to plow the other side under, or simply hoping that they’ll give up or back down or disappear if you wait long enough.
It happens through understanding the other side is just as motivated to get something done on behalf of their communities’ priorities as you are on behalf of yours, and being willing to make that possible.
It happens through dialogue, through give-and-take, and, ultimately, through compromise.
Compromise has become a negative word in our national politics, and the impact of this on the Legislature’s ability to do the very thing it was designed to do has been devastating, including here in Washington.
While some lawmakers may worry that their ideological purity will be compromised if they negotiate with the other side, the fact is, our children’s education will be compromised if they do not.
Despite our current deadlocked state, I believe we do have a path forward to a budget that fully funds our children’s education and stands up for our core values.
The Senate Republicans must be willing to come to the negotiating table and begin this process. Without all parties willing to engage in meaningful dialogue, a reasonable framework will never be found. The Legislature must complete and approve a bipartisan agreement to solve this without the Supreme Court weighing in to impose a decision.
We need to finish what the people sent us here to do, negotiate in good faith and pass a final, go-home budget that will fully fund our children’s future. We must work together to find the compromise by beginning full negotiations now.