Last week, the Idaho House of Representatives approved legislation calling for Gov. Brad Little to end his state’s emergency declaration. Shortly thereafter, the Idaho Senate followed suit, albeit approving different legislation.
Maybe that’s what our governor, Jay Inslee, is afraid of. Maybe he’s afraid our elected legislators will end his shutdown and tackle an ailing budget that he has yet to responsibly address. Or maybe he just enjoys muzzling other political leaders across the state.
For more than six months now, the governor has used his bully pulpit to keep the people’s representatives sidelined, silence those who disagree with his coronavirus mandates, and deny that fiscal decisions need to be made by the people’s representatives and senators.
While I’m not a fan of Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, even she had the backbone to call two special sessions in her state to deal with coronavirus-related budget shortfalls. Here, though, Gov. Inslee is allowing the budget gap to grow larger and larger. Yes, he has directed state agencies to cut costs, but his efforts are far too little to make a real difference as the coronavirus mandates continue to take a toll on our businesses, our communities, and the state as a whole.
It’s past time for lawmakers to convene and get involved.
The Legislature is a co-equal branch of our state government, meaning its authority is supposed to be equal to that of the governor’s office. But without a special session, our lawmakers have been stripped of their constitutional duty to manage our money and set policy for the governor to enforce. In short, our lawmakers have been muzzled.
For months, the governor even declined to talk with lawmakers such as Minority Leader Sen. Mark Schoessler, R-Ritzville. Schoessler, who represents several counties in eastern Washington, has been calling for a special session for months to no avail.
That’s no way to manage a state that is now facing more than a $4 billion budget shortfall during the current biennium. That shortfall grows daily as coronavirus-orders remain in effect.
Every day the Legislature remains muzzled is another day we lose businesses, jobs and tax dollars. It’s time to call lawmakers back to Olympia to do their job. The governor’s office alone cannot solve the budget shortfall. Nor can it decide how best to re-energize local economies. Our representatives and senators are more equipped for that.
The governor likes to say we are all in this pandemic together. If he truly believes that, he’ll step up and call a special session. Washingtonians deserve to have their representatives address the issues on their behalf. And they can only do that by convening the Legislature.
A special session is long past due.
—Roger Harnack is the publisher of Free Press Publishing. Email him at Roger@cheneyfreepress.com.