April 13 Daily News Editorial

Feedback and analysis on the final 2012-13 budget that escaped Washington's state Legislature are arriving. Two words we're hearing a lot: "contentious" and "compromise." Two we aren't hearing very often: "bold" and "speedy."

Maybe that's for the best. The climate for this year's "short session" in Olympia — which turned out to be considerably less than short — didn't lend itself to the consensus required for daring steps.

Instead, we had:

• State employees, always a powerful lobby at the Capitol, digging in against numerous assaults on their various pension and benefit programs but ultimately accepting some rare (but partial) defeats.

• State subsidies to public education avoiding another dramatic round of cuts, perhaps because constituents are finally reaching lawmakers with the message that cuts to education represent little more than a transfer of expenses to the individual school districts. Both Democrats and Republicans seemed willing to use school funding as a bargaining chip but unwilling to call for another round of reductions.

• Two financial maneuvers accounting for almost $550 million of the $1 billion shortfall. The state will now have control of local sales tax receipts for about one month before returning them to the jurisdictions in which they were collected. This money shuffling was worth a surprising $238 million.

In addition, lawmakers chose to let the state's cash reserves drop to $319 million. Outgoing Gov. Chris Gregoire had recommended a minimum reserve of $600 million, a position that ultimately left her with more allies among Republicans than Democrats.

There was welcome news for Cowlitz County in that $38.5 million for a new health and science building at Lower Columbia College finally made it past the last-minute give-and-takes and into a $1 billion capital budget. The building is both much-needed and welcomed, even though it will eliminate some of our favorite parking spots near David Story Field.

There was a lot of talk during the regular session and the special session that followed about how both the Democrats and Republicans were holding out for some sort of "total victory" and delaying the process. If that were the case — and we certainly hope it wasn't — both party caucuses were disappointed and no one departed Olympia claiming a triumph.

Upcoming sessions could be quite a bit different, particularly if voters choose to whittle away at either the still very solid Democratic majority in the House or the growing Republican minority in the Senate, where some kind of bipartisan support is now required to get almost anything passed.

When the Legislators reconvene, of course, a new rule they just enacted will require budget planning for four years instead of just two. Looking ahead — if words were stocks — we'd buy "contentious" and sell "speedy."

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