And all this time we thought Republicans just hated collective bargaining. Turns out they don’t really understand how it works.
Anyone who has ever successfully negotiated a contract knows that the goal is not to win but to reach an agreement. Both sides start with dreams, find the responsibilities embedded in those dreams, and end with the reality of a deal that nobody likes, but everybody can live with. At some point during the negotiations, each side has to make a big move toward the other side, giving up things that they hold dear without compromising basic principles.
In the negotiations over the 2013-15 Washington State Operating Budget, the House Democrats made that big move on June 6. They broke the hearts of a big part of their base, gave up their dream of a moderately more responsible tax structure, and passed a revised budget that was a shadow of their original proposal.
That was the signal to the Republican Senate that it was their turn to make a big move. So over the weekend they got together and passed…well, pretty much the same budget they’d passed a couple of months before. Only this time they did it with five fewer votes, with grownups like Jim Hargrove and Sharon Nelson, who had voted with them in April in a responsible attempt to move the process along toward compromise, having now abandoned them (and now that only Tom and Sheldon are still voting with them, it’s probably time to let go of that whole Majority Coalition thing). To put it in the refined technical terms of bargaining, the Senate Republicans gave the House Democrats the finger.
In their defense, we should probably point out that this is all pretty new to most of these guys. The senators now in charge haven’t really had much experience being in charge. Until now, their dreams have had no responsibilities attached. They haven’t been the ones who’ve had to actually make the deal, they’ve mostly had the enviable luxury of righteously casting irrelevant no votes from the minority or the back bench.
The actual dollar difference between the two budgets is no longer the issue. The Senate has made it clear that before they will move any closer to the House on the budget, they must have action on a series of policy bills. This insistence continues long after the House Democrats and Governor Inslee have abandoned their policy dreams of the Dream Act and Reproductive Parity.
In response to this Republican insistence on pushing policy long after the policy bell has rung, the House Democrats and the Governor have accused the Senate Republicans of holding the state budget hostage to ideology.
If only that were true. If only the current circus were being driven by actual ideologues with actual principles. That would be incredibly refreshing.
But alas, the current Republican lineup of policy bills is buttressed by nothing more than electoral politics.
SB 5127, which would allow structured settlements for workers’ compensation, doesn’t do squat for the budget, since workers’ comp is funded by employer and employee contributions. But if the House Democrats were forced to pass this as part of a budget deal, it would drive a wedge between the Democrats and Labor, which might lead to less labor money and organizing for Democrats in the next election.
SB 5242, with the Orwellian title of “Mutual Consent,” is the stupidest of the so-called “education reform” bills. It would allow principals to fire teachers for no reason at all. Not even the principlals want this, but if the House Democrats caved on this one, it would certainly sour the Washington Education Association on the Democrats.
SB 5895 is a dusting off of Rob McKenna’s (losing) campaign platform. It would severely limit spending on everything except education (all the cool kids are calling it “education by starvation”) and if it passed it would be a rock around Jay Inslee’s neck right through the 2016 gubernatorial election.
Nobody should be shocked that most of what goes on in Olympia is about elections, but with a second special session already underway and a government shutdown looming, the Senate Republicans are now taking things to Boehner/McConnell levels.
Meanwhile, the budget that will eventually pass isn’t going to do much for the thing that everyone has claimed that this legislative session has been about: education. The only significant tax in the budget will be a tax that specifically targets teachers: the repeal of I-732, which both Democrats and all the rabidly anti-tax Republicans have agreed on from day one. That will balance the budget on the backs of teachers to the tune of about three hundred million dollars. Even with that tax, there will only be about $700 million in new investments in K-12 education, about half of what the McCleary decision calls for.
Can’t wait to hear what the Supreme Court has to say about that.