When state government reconvenes this month, Democrats ought to have been sitting pretty. After all, their party won majorities in both the state Senate and House and elected easily the most progressive governor our state has seen this century.
Since Democrats have controlled both Olympia’s executive and legislative branches since pterodactyls still roamed our skies, this should mean, at worst, business as usual; at best, it would mean implementing voters’ clearly expressed preference for a more liberal state government.
But that’s not what's going to happen.
Instead, Olympia, this year, for the first time in anyone’s memory, will experience something like a minority government — that’s the term used in parliamentary systems, when a party that didn’t get a majority of votes still elects the prime minister and controls parliament, usually by forming alliances with smaller parties. That’s what Republicans are doing in our state Senate for 2013-14 — except that the “alliances” will be with two parties of one: Eastside Sen. Rodney Tom and Mason County Sen. Tim Sheldon.
Both Tom and Sheldon have announced that, even though they were elected as Democrats, they will caucus with the Republicans this year, giving a Senate with 26 Democrats and 23 Republicans enough votes to elect a Republican majority leader and, subsequently, give control of the state senate to the GOP.
This has never happened before.
Oh, sure, Republicans have controlled a House (or both Houses) in Olympia before, but never when the party was almost wholly comprised of and controlled by the deeply radical ideologues that, here as elsewhere, now dominate the GOP. (News flash to local media: Dan Evans was last governor 36 years ago.)
The consequences for state government — in a state that only elected one Republican (and a moderate at that) to any statewide office last November — will be far-reaching.
Most attention so far has focused on the state budget, which, again this year, faces a huge revenue shortfall due to a weak national economy, an Eyman-inspired ban (for all practical purposes) on raising new revenue and a grossly antiquated tax structure.
What will the biennial budget Olympia eventually passes look like? We got a good clue last year, when Tom and Sheldon were two of the three Democrats (now-retired Sen. Jim Kastama, who didn’t even survive the primary in his bid for secretary of state, was the
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