Gov. Jay Inslee should call the state Legislature into session next month as Republican legislative leaders have requested.
It’s time for reasoned debate on how to reduce state government spending as declining sales tax revenue in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic is busting the budget.
In addition, it’s time for senators and representatives — elected to represent the people — to weigh in on plans continuing reopenning the state from the original lockdown.
That’s not to imply Inslee’s actions to this point have not been appropriate given the dire circumstances Washingtonians faced.
Nevertheless, the initial emergency has passed and it’s now time to tackle COVID-19 and its impacts — economic and health — in the same fashion laws are approved and the budget is established.
That means letting the Legislature debate the options, approve legislation and then send it to the governor for final approval.
Yes, it could get heated and even ugly as this is an emotional issue for many, whether Democrats or Republicans.
Keep in mind that Republicans are calling for special session of the Legislature even though they know Democrats control the House and Senate and the governor is a Democrat. This effort seems to be driven by wanting an opportunity to have a public discussion.
“The Legislature has been kept on the sidelines for more than two months while the governor exercised emergency powers long past the time when his original goal of ‘flattening the curve’ was realized and hospital resources were not overwhelmed,” said Senate Minority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, in a statement Thursday. “... It is time for the legislative branch to intervene.”
A June session could be well timed as the official revenue (tax collection) forecast is expected in mid-June. The preliminary estimates are beyond abysmal. Projections show a $7-billion budget shortfall over the next three years to annual budgets of about $26 billion.
That’s serious money. Deep cuts will have to be made to government functions once thought to be untouchable.
The sooner cuts are made, the less that will have to be eliminated in the future.
It’s being argued by the Governor’s Office that the technical issue of convening the Legislature during a pandemic need to be worked out.
As many have learned through their work and personal lives, it can be done. The technology is available. Even Congress — usually as nimble as an aircraft carrier — has figured it out.
Call the Legislature into a 30-day session in June and then extend another 30 days into July if needed.
The COVID-19 problems can’t be allowed to fester through the summer.