Opinion editorial by Bruce Chandler: Government "shutdown"?

Special to the Yakima Valley Business Times


Today is the 138th day of the 105-day session. You read that right. As I write this June 14, the governor has just called the Legislature into a second special session. The question remains how to balance the state budget, increase education funding as mandated by the state Supreme Courts, and still protect the most vulnerable. It's not an attractive job, but it's the Legislature's job, and it's still not done.

The Democrats in power in the House and the bipartisan coalition in the Senate have different approaches to budgeting: what they prioritize and how much they spend. The House Democrats have held back school funding pending passage of tax proposals while fully funding discretionary programs. The Senate coalition has funded education first and reduced social programs. In their latest proposal, House Democrats proposed $595 million in tax increases, down from their earliest proposal of $1.3 billion. The Senate came from a no-new-taxes position to agree to $293 million in tax increases.

Both sides have and are willing to compromise. Unfortunately, our governor has taken sides with the House Democrats instead of negotiating, and used threats of a D.C.-like “government shutdown” instead of leadership. This is disappointing for the people who believed he would bring people together and not increase taxes as he promised last fall.

Senate Democrats are keeping a “countdown to shutdown” of state government if a budget is not passed by June 30, the end of the fiscal year. The governor has stated since early June he was already meeting with his cabinet to discuss what to do if a budget isn't adopted. This doomsday rhetoric is premature and not helpful to the legislative process. It also scares those most reliant on state programs and services – the elderly and disabled.

Furthermore, the governor has changed his top priorities several times. The very first bill he requested was one I sponsored: the Yakima Basin water management plan. However, his greatest lobbying was on two bills that created divisiveness: universal background checks for the sale of firearms between individuals, and a study on climate change. Toward the very end of the regular session, the governor introduced drunken driving legislation and said it must get through the Legislature during the first special session. The governor's lack of focus has created distractions for the Legislature as it attempts to balance the budget.

In my monthly columns in this paper since December, I have focused on three things: jobs, education, and sustainable budgeting. These are my priorities as your state representative, because that's what you have told me are most important.

We can adopt a sustainable budget that prioritizes education and protects the most vulnerable but does not put further tax burdens on hardworking families. A “government shutdown” does not have to be inevitable, if there is focus. Perhaps it's the eternal optimist in me, but Olympia should not let itself become like D.C. In this Washington, we find compromise and do what is right.

Rep. Bruce Chandler represents the 15th Legislative District, which includes east Yakima County. He serves as the assistant ranking Republican on the House Appropriations Committee. When he's not serving in Olympia, Rep. Chandler lives in Granger and works on his pear orchard.


Washington State House Republican Communications