Sheldon applauds bipartisanship of Senate budget writing process

Sen. Tim Sheldon voted in favor of the bipartisan Senate budget that passed with much fanfare Friday. Despite being down two legislators during most of a debate that lasted the better part of five hours, Sheldon and his Majority Coalition Caucus colleagues were able to fend off all but a handful of attempts to amend its state operating budget major changes to their state operating-budget proposal. Sheldon, D-Potlatch, stressed the importance of working across party lines to pass a sustainable budget.

“Since I helped create the Majority Coalition Caucus, we held firm to our belief that we could rise above partisan politics, and build a budget based on consensus and collaboration,” Sheldon said. “We crafted a truly bipartisan budget, which is something that just does not happen in Olympia.”

Sheldon heralded the leadership of Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond and Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, who started negotiating the budget during the first week of the session, in mid-January. The resulting $33.3 billion spending plan was adopted by the Senate Friday evening.

“If it wasn’t for Senators Hill and Hargrove, the final budget would have looked a lot different,” Sheldon said. “However, even though the Majority Coalition Caucus was down two legislators, our efforts to build a collaborative proposal kept our initial package relatively intact.”

Sheldon was referring to last Friday’s floor debate where members of the minority introduced 24 amendments, most of which were rejected despite the fact that only 23 of its members were present for most of the voting, effectively leaving the Majority Coalition in the minority.

“I am very pleased with the final bill,” Sheldon said. “We were able to add one billion dollars to basic education, decrease tuition for in-state students by three percent, and best of all, no new taxes!”

The Senate supported the budget by a 30-18 final vote, which included nine Democrats and 21 Republicans. “This is not about partisan politics,” Sheldon said. “It is about fairness and representing the people in your districts. Now it is the House’s turn to release a budget proposal, which I suspect will look a lot different.”

A corresponding proposal is expected from the House of Representatives tomorrow, after which time the two sides will start negotiating a final budget. The deadline for an agreement is no later than April 28 if the Legislature is to adjourn on time during the 105-day session.