Today, Gov. Jay Inslee signed what looked like a balanced budget, but left with a $2 billion question mark.
Blame the class-size initiative, narrowly passed by voters last year. Initiative 1351, which did not specify any source of funding, was basically ignored in the budget-writing process by the Senate, the House and the governor.
Instead, the Legislature set out to delay the implementation of the initiative by four years. The liberal House, controlled by Democrats, easily gathered the 2/3rds votes necessary to delay the law. When I spoke with Sen. Michael Baumgartner yesterday, he expected the Senate, controlled by Republicans, to easily follow suit. But Rich Wood, spokesman for Washington Education Association, cautioned leaping to such conclusions. He knew what he was talking about.
Come this morning, the celebration
about the initial budget had turned to anger. On Twitter, state Sen. Michael Baumgartner, who had been celebrating the victory for students in the operating budget, was calling Sen. Andy Billig and several other Democrats liars. Billig had refused to vote for the bill to be delayed.
"Reckless, irresponsible Senate Ds break budget deal, decide to play [Russian roulette] with poor to try to again force tax increase," Baumgartner wrote on Twitter. "Budget now $2B out of balance and illegal. Chaos."
He told KIRO radio the same thing.
"Half the Senate Democrats kept their word, the other half decided to play politics," Baumgartner said. "There was a huge fight among the Senate Democrats on the floor...and the whole thing broke up."
In the late afternoon, I caught up with Billig to ask him what happened. Did he have an agreement, then go back on his word?
"Absolutely not. Absolutely not," Billig says. "That’s a complete fabrication." If there were agreements of any kind, Billig says he wasn't told about them.