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CBH editorial: Partisan divide takes a back seat

| April 8, 2020 11:59 PM

On Monday, Gov. Jay Inslee announced his veto of 147 budget items sent to him by the Legislature. Good for him.

For a time before January, the legislature had been split fairly evenly between Republicans and Democrats, which meant that bipartisan cooperation was necessary to accomplish anything and that neither party had a completely free hand to push its agenda through. This balance meant that while neither the red nor the blue regions of the state were entirely happy with government actions, neither side could be easily marginalized.

That balance was upset this year when the Democratic Party gained a majority in both houses of the legislature, while continuing to hold the governorship. Lawmakers lost no time voting to pass numerous changes that Democrats had long advocated. Some of those reforms were signed into law by the governor.

But the governor’s veto pen struck down many of those, on the grounds that they would divert funding needed while the state is confronting the spread of COVID-19 and to help the economy to recover afterward. Bills that were shot down included measures to encourage recycling and clean energy, as well as enforcement of environmental standards and prescription drug cost oversight.

The governor did the right thing, for two reasons. First, he is correct that the state has limited financial resources, and while clean energy, recycling and drug cost oversight are worthwhile pursuits for the long term, the immediate public health crisis takes precedence. The $445 million over the next three years that the state saves from these vetoes will come in very handy.

Second, the vetoes serve as a conciliatory gesture to the more conservative part of the state. Like the rest of America, Washington is deeply divided politically. The differences must be set aside during a crisis.

Another move we applaud was signing SB 6068, Sen. Judy Warnick’s bill to extend sales and use tax exemptions for large private airplanes. It was a sensible and important bill for Moses Lake. Inslee made it law with his signature on April 2.

Likewise, we support Inslee’s choice to sign HB 2556, Rep. Tom Dent’s bill to provide early learning and child care providers with relief from state rules that were pushing some out of business.

Inslee’s vetoes of other bills championed by his own party demonstrated his willingness to let partisan victories take a back seat to actions that benefit all Washingtonians. While that was not among his stated motivations, the effect is there. COVID-19 is neither a Republican nor a Democratic virus; it is a threat to us all, and we must meet it together.