Sheldon reflects on 2011 legislative session

 With the swing of a gavel, President of the Senate Brad Owen and House Speaker Frank Chopp adjourned sine die the special session of the 2011 Legislature. The long-anticipated event was made possible by recent breakthroughs between parties and chambers just days ago.

Among the largest hang-up was the Operating Budget for the 2011-13 biennium. One Senator, Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, voted against the proposal.

Asked to list some of his reasons why, Sheldon first pointed to the deep cuts borne by the state’s education system.

“As lawmakers, we have a Constitutional duty to fully fund basic education for our children,” Said Sheldon. “This budget slashes well over a billion dollars to K-12 education alone. While I appreciate the inclusive nature of budget discussions over the past few months, the values represented by this budget cut simply did not mirror the values of my district.”

Sheldon went on to say he would have preferred to see tightened levels of prioritization and success in capturing efficiencies in state government as opposed to the deep cuts.

“Since day one, we’ve been talking about how this recession has presented state government with an opportunity to create the kind of fiscal reform that would not be possible in other years,” Said Sheldon. “But what we see instead is over-reliance on news fees, short-sighted budget tricks and a failure to reduce the size of state government through consolidation.”

Sheldon, however, did note a few positive measures to emerge from the 2011 session.

“What we did see a lot of this year is positive government reform measures,” Said Sheldon. Asked to cite an example, Sheldon looked to recent reforms of the state’s worker’s compensation system. “For over 100 years, our state has utilized the same methods for helping workers and families get back on their feet. Today, we make a thoughtful change to modernize that system in a way that boosts the quality of care for injured workers, returning them to work as soon as possible, while reinforcing the system’s long-term sustainability,” Said Sheldon.

Lawmakers now leave Olympia until next year’s legislative session, to begin early January of 2012.