Rob McKenna today said a Democratic “failure of leadership” in the Legislature is at fault for protracted budget negotiations, and the Republican gubernatorial candidate urged adoption of reform bills that he says have bipartisan support.
McKenna said House Speaker Frank Chopp won’t allow a vote on the reform bills, despite offers from Republicans who are “ready to move quite a ways” toward a compromise.
“But they haven’t seen once inch of compromise from the speaker’s office,” McKenna said. “He will not allow any vote on any reform bill, even those that have strong Democratic support.”
McKenna said he supports a pension reform bill and 4-year balanced budget bill that were both part of the budget that passed the Senate with the support of Republicans and three moderate Democrats, then stalled in the Democratic-controlled House.
He also called for a number of long-term reforms during a press conference held in front of the newly built state Data Center building in Olympia, which houses data and IT services. McKenna said the $268 million building is an example of government spending without oversight — rental space in the building costs double the going rate per square footage, McKenna said, and data storage could have been contracted out to “cloud” services for less money.
In addition to contracting out some state services to private businesses, McKenna called for reducing 5 percent of the state’s workforce through attrition, implementing a performance-based pay system, and giving the Legislature more power in negotiating labor contracts for workers’ pay and benefits. He outlined all of his ideas in a policy paper.
Update: Democratic Sen. Ed Murray, who chairs the Senate budget writing committee, issued a statement Monday evening saying McKenna is not part of the budget negotiations and his account of them “is not true and certainly not helpful.” Murray said House Speaker Frank Chopp has been working with budget negotiators daily.
“I’m surprised that McKenna, our state’s attorney general, thinks it’s constructive to insert himself into legislative negotiations as a political candidate,” Murray said.
Watch video of McKenna’s press conference below.