Split government in Olympia has stymied state’s potential

Today’s Senate majority in Olympia bears a greater resemblance to the elevated partisanship of Washington, D.C., than the history of bipartisan cooperation symbolized by the widely-respected service of Republican Gov. Dan Evans.

FOR the last five years, an experiment in representative democracy has been playing out in our state capital.

In 2012, three Democrats joined 22 Republicans to give Republicans control of the state Senate in Olympia. With Democrats in charge in the House of Representatives, our state entered divided government for the first time in a decade.

Many lauded the development as a chance for a new era of bipartisan cooperation, fiscal discipline and policy moderation. Indeed, in a Dec. 15, 2012, Op-Ed in these pages [“State Senate’s new Majority Coalition Caucus will govern across party lines”], Sens. Rodney Tom and Mark Schoesler promised to “set aside their political affiliations and govern cooperatively.”

In a recent Op-Ed in these pages, one of the architects of that effort, Tom, made the case that Republican control of the state Senate and their split-government experiment was an overwhelming policy and political success [“Washington state is better served by a split government,” July 30, Opinion].

The facts do not support that conclusion. If anything, today’s Senate majority in Olympia bears a greater resemblance to the elevated partisanship of Washington, D.C., than the history of bipartisan cooperation symbolized by the widely-respected service of Republican Gov. Dan Evans.

Like the GOP majorities in the U.S. Congress, Senate Republicans in Olympia have twice passed partisan state budgets with virtually no Democratic participation and used the fear of a government shutdown as leverage to push their agenda.

Most recently, they refused to bring up the capital investment budget for a vote — a $4 billion budget passed by an overwhelming bipartisan majority in the House — because of an unrelated dispute over rural water wells. Tying those two issues together has caused billions in construction projects to grind to a halt in every…

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