All three legislators from Southwest Washington’s 19th District agree on the need to fully fund basic education. But they’ll likely still vote along party lines when it comes to the GOP budget proposal that passed the Senate last week and which Republicans say would solve the school funding problem.
State Sen. Dean Takko, D-Longview, heavily criticized the GOP Senate budget for its cuts to early childhood education and — like nearly all Senate Democrats — opposed the proposal Thursday.
“Their goal was to write a budget without any new revenue,” Takko said. “They did it on the backs of a whole lot of people.”
In return, Takko said state Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia — the top Republican budget writer — warned him he would credit state Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen, for saving Naselle Youth Camp if he didn’t vote for the Senate budget.
A press release announced the camp as having been saved in the Senate budget Wednesday, a day after the GOP plan rolled out. In the release, Braun was quoted as saying Walsh was instrumental in getting the camp added to the proposal.
“Rep. Walsh has been a tremendous advocate for this program that the governor proposed cutting,” Braun said in the released statement. “I want to send a strong message to the community and employees that this is a beneficial program we ought to protect.”
“He is a man of his word,” Takko said with a chuckle Friday. He said in a conversation with Braun weeks earlier, that Braun had already indicated Naselle Youth Camp would be included in the GOP budget. “For 13 years I’d like to think that I’ve been the champion of Naselle Youth Camp. ... Those things do kind of grate on you.”
Though Walsh was involved and active in trying to get Naselle beneficiaries to attend public hearings when the camp was still in danger of closing, Naselle has been on the state’s chopping block several times, long before Walsh was a state legislator.
Walsh said he’s been talking to Republican legislators about Naselle since the beginning of his term but added “there’s lots of arm-twisting that goes on.”
“Dean did vote against the budget. There was obviously some tension there, but I’m not privy to those conversations,” Walsh said. “I was basically working my side and I think they were working their side. ... Obviously anybody from this part of the state wants (Naselle) to stay open.”
Takko was largely critical of GOP budget’s reduction of funding for the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program and the Public Works Assistance Account. City lobbyists say the budget leaves only $200 million in loans over the next four years for cities like Longview.
House Democrats are expected to release their budget next week. Walsh shared the same criticisms as Takko and said he’s not committed to any decisions. But it’s no surprise that he, so far, supports the GOP plan.
“I like the state Senate budget. I really do,” he said. “I don’t know if there’s such a thing as a perfect budget. I would like to work from the Senate budget to a final budget.”