Before this apparently-unending legislative session started, Governor Chris Gregoire said that if the Representatives and Senators in Olympia couldn't agree on tax increases, she would cut health care and college scholarships and other heart-string-tugging state programs out of the budget. The legislature didn't get it done, but Gregoire blinked, calling a special session instead of making the cuts.
WSDOT Sorry, Gregoire, scare tactics only work if you're willing to follow through.
TVW.org reports that she now says she'll slash every state agency's budget by 20 percent if law-makers can't agree on new taxes to resolve the $2.8 billion deficit by the end of this month-long session. But if holding state programs hostage to get tax increases didn't work before, it certainly isn't holding sway now. In fact, legislators appear to be ignoring the governor altogether, focusing their efforts instead on "rogue" Attorney General and Obamacare-hater, Rob McKenna.That's the risk in taking hostages. If people don't believe you'll actually shoot them, your position is dramatically weakened.
Since the special session started March 15, Gregoire has tried to put her foot down--insisting the legislators come to a deal by the end of the first week. Then the end of the second week. Heading into the third week, many senators and representatives have gone home, leaving key negotiators to work it out and planning to come back for a vote if it ever happens.
And for the people still around, the discussion is heavily focused not on the budget, but health care, specifically whether or not to create legislation forbidding McKenna from using state dollars to fight the health care bill on constitutional grounds. Yesterday the remaining Senators also voted to formally create a 10-member panel charged with getting the state health reform-ready by the time the federal legislation is implemented in 2014.
If you're keeping score, that means a Republican Attorney General (and gubernatorial-hopeful) has more influence over what's happening in our state's capital right now than the two-term Democratic Governor does.