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Democrats speak out following Republican takeover of Washington State Senate

As we reported earlier this evening, the Washington State Senate Republicans, acting in concert with three Democrats in Name Only (Jim Kastama, Rodney Tom, and Tim Sheldon) have seized control of the floor of the Legislature’s upper chamber, effectively turning the remainder of the Senate Democratic caucus into the minority party with a week left to go in the 2012 regular session.

On Facebook, on Twitter, and through their offices, many Democratic senators are speaking out in opposition to the takeover and the newly-minted Republican majority’s attempt to ram through a budget that has not received any public hearings or scrutiny. What follows is a collection of the statements they’ve shared with us over the last few hours.

Senator Sharon Nelson (D-34th District):

Tonight I am saddened that three Democrats, Senators Jim Kastama, Rodney Tom, and Tim Sheldon assisted the Republicans in taking over the Senate floor. While the Republicans may be celebrating, I am going through a budget which they just brought out of the back room. While the Democrats provided an additional $38.7 million to K-12 education, this Republican budget cuts K-12 by $44 million. While the Democrats’ budget added funds to higher education, the Republicans cut higher education by $30.4 million. Plus, the poor and working families sustain a $311 million cut — 4 times the cuts in the Democrats’ budget. This is a budget for the top one percent and I can understand why they kept it in a back room until now.

Senator Kevin Ranker (D-40th District):

I am deeply disappointed by the decision of Senate Republicans to circumvent our state’s formerly transparent budgeting process to pass a budget that devastates our state’s safety net and our K-12 and higher education system.

Tonight, I believe personal agendas and right-wing ideologies outweighed the need for a 21st century education system that prepares our children for a global economy, comprehensive healthcare and critical environmental protections.

Whereas the Democratic budget makes no cuts to K-12 and higher education, the Republicans’ budget slashes K-12 education by $44 million and higher education by $30 million.

Their proposal further devastates women’s health by slashing funds to maternity support services and family planning, services that Washingtonians want and need.

It significantly weakens our state’s environmental and ecological commitment to our future by sweeping funds intended for clean-up of toxic waste sites and eliminating over 1,000 associated jobs.

This budget was crafted in secret and is nearly 300 pages long. At this late hour, the public has not had a chance to view this budget, much less understand the severity of its cuts

I find today’s action to constitute an absolute disservice to the public.

Senator Nick Harper (D-38th District):

There is a budget being debated this evening without ever having had a public hearing. An amendment that was proposed, which I spoke in favor of, would have restored funding to our Disability Lifeline Health program. This program offers health care to over 12,000 people, many of whom have severe mental illness. The amendment failed. This budget will make our communities significantly less safe by dramatically increasing our crime rates and denying our most vulnerable Washingtonians the services they desperately need and deserve.

Senator Craig Pridemore (D-49th District):

Jim Kastama and Rodney Tom have taken over the Senate in order to pass the Republican agenda for the State of Washington. Should be an interesting evening/weekend.

Senator David Frockt (D-46th District):

The Republicans who have hijacked the budget tonight on the Senate floor (with the help of a few Dems) have rejected every amendment we have offered except one that I just got them to take back – the one to restore their cut to funding to the College Success Foundation for scholarships for disadvantaged kids. Small victory, in an otherwise outrageous evening of stunts, shenanigans and bad policy…

Senator Regala (D-27th District):

When I came to the Legislature in 1995, I was unfamiliar with many of the processes by which bills became the laws of our state. I had my ideas of course, but little familiarity with the body that I had joined. In spite of that, I was excited to be a part of the process and eager to make a positive contribution.

At one of my first committee hearings, I received a shock that I have not forgotten. The committee chairman, from the opposite party, asked for my vote on a lengthy water policy bill that I had just been handed. No explanation of what it did and no opportunity to read/review it. My ignorance of the facts, intent and effects of that bill did not matter. I was being asked to vote for a bill I had no knowledge of.

You can imagine the shock and sadness that I felt and my disillusion with the process I had become a part of. Since that time, I have striven to be knowledgeable of every piece of legislation I cast a vote for, whether in support or opposition.

This is my final year in the State Legislature and I had hoped it would end with my never having to feel that way again. You can imagine my sadness and disappointment at the actions of Senate Republicans and three members of my own party, which plunged the entire Senate into a state of partisan chaos. Once again, I was being asked to vote on a bill on which I had no knowledge.

This time, it is not a narrowly focused policy bill moving through committee, but a 233 page budget amendment that will cut services critical to the lives and livelihoods of thousands of our states residents. The shame and anger I feel at today’s display of the partisan acts that has gripped our country is overwhelming.

In closing, I can only promise, as I did before, to not cast a vote for a document that I do not understand or have knowledge of. It is our responsibility as lawmakers for the State of Washington to pass legislation that is in the best interests of our state.

In my remaining days as a Senator, however many they may be, I pledge to continue to fight for our state and to ensure that any bill which passes off the Senate floor is done so with the process and procedure that I have always believed in.

As of this hour, the Senate is still in session in the Legislative Building in Olympia, with Democrats offering amendment after amendment to the Republican majority’s budget proposal. Nearly all of the amendments they have offered have been rejected by a vote of twenty-five to twenty-four.

The Republican takeover of the Senate all but guarantees that there will need to be a thirty-day special session called to continue working on a supplemental operating budget. House Democrats have made it plainly clear that the Senate Republicans’ budget proposal will be dead on arrival in the House, and Governor Chris Gregoire – whose signature is needed to enact any budget – has also strongly condemned it.

Neither Rodney Tom nor Tim Sheldon will be facing voters this year, as both were reelected in 2010 to four year terms. Jim Kastama, on the other hand, will be on the ballot, whether he chooses to remain in the race for Secretary of State, or runs again for Senate. (His term expires at the end of 2012).

Sheldon already had a reputation as a Republican who calls himself a Democrat. (He endorsed and supported George W. Bush back in 2004). He could probably win election in his somewhat conservative district as a Republican. Kastama and Tom, on the other hand, represent more progressive districts, and have campaigned for office on Democratic values and principles.

If, like us, you are appalled by what they have done earlier this evening – and what they are still doing at this very hour – then let them know:

Jim Kastama
Olympia Office: (360) 786-7648
District Office: (253) 840-4701
By E-Mail: Jim.Kastama@leg.wa.gov
PO Box 40425
Olympia, WA 98504-0425
Rodney Tom
Olympia Office: (360) 786-7694
By e-mail: Rodney.Tom@leg.wa.gov
PO Box 40448
Olympia, WA 98504-0448

2 Comments

  1. Posted March 3rd, 2012 at 4:51 PM | Permalink

    Senator Tom is suppose to represent me, not the conservative republican right wing tea party. If Senator Tom wants to bring Alec sponsored and Koch brothers supported Wisconsin style “Democracy” to Washington, then we’ll introduce him to Wisconsin’s remedy: Recall.

  2. Paul Schlossman
    Posted March 8th, 2012 at 12:48 PM | Permalink

    A clear and powerful response is occurring among Democrats, as they have observed the budgetary process removed from their control (in spite of being in the majority in the State Senate). Their
    deliberation and analysis were completely
    bypassed on March 2 at Olympia. As, e.g.,
    Sharon Nelson stated: One of the principal
    effects of this maneuvering is to reduce
    the funding of education in Washington,
    in terms of a reduction in critical needs.