Washington lawmakers are singing the blues over the state’s budget woes. The legislature convenes Monday for a 105-day session. Once again, majority Democrats are confronted with a multi-billion dollar budget shortfall.
There’s a tradition in Olympia. Each year Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown – a music buff – chooses a theme song for the upcoming session.
This year, the Spokane Democrat is nursing a case of the budget blues. Lawmakers will have to balance a budget that’s $4.6B in the red. So Brown’s song choice this year is John Lee Hooker singing “Got no lien on my body, Got no mortgage on my soul”.
Brown likes the song’s message of perseverance. But she also clings to the line later in the song: “I’m so glad, Lord, for the troubles don’t always last.” While they do last, Brown’s goal is to save programs the governor has proposed to end like the Basic Health Plan and Disability Lifeline:
“I think they will sustain reductions and that there will be reductions across state government. What I’ve said is we’ll look for an alternative to completely eliminating them.”
Democrats might also ask voters to approve higher taxes – or close tax exemptions – in order to stave off some of the deepest cuts. Minority Republicans – and even Democratic Governor Chris Gregoire - respond that Washington voters sent a clear message back in November when they cast not one, not two, but three anti-tax votes.
“We can’t do any new taxes or fees this year because people can’t afford new costs,” says House Republican leader Richard DeBolt.
Republicans have their own suggestions for session theme songs including the anthem on marriage by country duo Brooks and Dunn, "The Long Haul."
The long haul in Olympia could be the session itself. A key question is whether majority Democrats will coalesce around a budget solution by the April 24th deadline. Last year they went into a special session that lasted thirty extra days.