Proving once again that their Fund education first rhetoric is nothing but a false front, Republicans today pushed a bill through the Washington State Senate that transfers sales tax revenue collected on transportation projects out of the state’s general fund and into its highway fund. Since the general fund principally pays for our schools and universities, the bill would effectively take money away from education and put it towards laying asphalt instead.
The final vote on SSB 5990 was twenty-six to twenty-three, with all Republicans voting aye and all Democrats voting nay. The bill now heads to the House, where it will hopefully receive the full and complete burial that it deserves.
The roll call was as follows:
Voting Yea: Senators Angel, Bailey, Baumgartner, Becker, Benton, Braun, Brown, Dammeier, Dansel, Ericksen, Fain, Hewitt, Hill, Honeyford, King, Litzow, Miloscia, O’Ban, Padden, Parlette, Pearson, Rivers, Roach, Schoesler, Sheldon, Warnick
Voting Nay: Senators Billig, Chase, Cleveland, Conway, Darneille, Fraser, Frockt, Habib, Hargrove, Hasegawa, Hatfield, Hobbs, Jayapal, Keiser, Kohl-Welles, Liias, McAuliffe, McCoy, Mullet, Nelson, Pedersen, Ranker, Rolfes
Prior to the vote on final passage, Senate Democrats tried to get the bill amended to prohibit it from taking effect until after the McCleary case has been fully resolved.
The Senate Republicans voted the amendment down, drawing a pointed rejoinder from Democratic Senator Pramila Jayapal of Seattle.
“How can the Republican majority claim education funding is their top priority, and yet blow a billion dollar hole in already limited resources?” said Jayapal, who offered the amendment with fellow Democrat Rosemary McAuliffe. “This is bad for our kids, bad for our infrastructure, and it is simply irresponsible governing.”
“Legislators on both sides of the aisle came into this session in agreement that our top priority must be meeting our moral and constitutional obligation to our kids while also ensuring that we maintain the other essential services that the state provides, from funding higher education to safety net services,” Jayapal added.
“Without any agreement on where the dollars will come from to fund the needs we currently know we have, this bill gives us an even more giant problem to solve. The readiness to forgo such a reasonable compromise on something that would ensure that we fund both education and transportation makes me question how willing the Senate Republicans will be to come up with balanced solutions on education funding and the state budget in the weeks to come.”
Today’s action by Senate Republicans reminds us of a speech that Patty Murray used to give, back when she was running for reelection to her third term in the United States Senate. Denouncing the actions of the Bush administration and the Republican-controlled Congress, she’d declare: They’ve got the wrong priorities!
Eleven years later, not much has changed. When Republicans hold power, they either govern irresponsibly, or not at all. Our country and state suffer as a result.
The Washington Supreme Court has already held the Legislature in contempt of court for failing to comply with its orders to fully fund our public schools. Senate Republicans have now thumbed their noses at that order by indefensibly voting to take money away from our schools and earmark it for new pavement. Because, as far as they’re concerned, nothing is too good for our cars. Never mind our kids.