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Postman on Politics

Chief political reporter David Postman explores state, regional and national politics.

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July 21, 2008 10:44 AM

New anti-Locke -Rossi ads on the air

Posted by David Postman

The union-funded Evergreen Progress PAC is airing two new TV spots critical of Republican Dino Rossi’s tenure in the Legislature. Both ads follow the theme and style of earlier spots from the PAC; 15 seconds, narrated in a Desperate-Housewives-sort-of-way, mining Rossi’s votes as chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee in 2003.

The new spots focus on education and Rossi's support for suspending two citizen-approved initiatives designed to give teachers raises and to reduce class sizes. Gov. Chris Gregoire made funding those initiatives a priority when she took office in 2005.

The nation's largest teacher's union is one of the recent big donors to Evergreen Progress. The PAC reported a $250,000 contribution from a National Education Association PAC on June 29.

The PAC calls the new ads, "Overcrowding"

And "Teacher Pay."

The ads are correct, as they say, that "State Senator Dino Rossi voted to cut state funds to reduce class sizes" and "State Senator Rossi voted to freeze teacher pay." But so did a majority of the Legislature that year in budget-cutting moves originally proposed by Democratic Gov. Gary Locke.

The initiatives were approved by voters in 2000. But by 2003, Locke said the state could not afford the cost of living raises mandated by I-732 or the hiring of new teachers as mandated in I-728. As the governor's budget proposal said in December, 2002:

With 80,000 jobs now lost across all economic sectors of the state economy, a pay raise for a single group of state-funded employees is not appropriate.

House Speaker Frank Chopp said back then

"Times have changed ... . At the time Initiative 728 was passed, the economy was growing and the state had a surplus."

Chopp wanted to send the initiatives back to the voters with some sort of new tax attached to pay for them. But Locke's proposal was adopted by Rossi, the Senate's chief budget writer, and passed by the Republican-controlled Senate.

The House went along with the plan, too. The proposal to suspend teacher raises won plenty of Democratic votes in the House.

Back in 2003, the NEA's state affiliate, the Washington Education Association, actually had some good things to say about Rossi's role in budget negotiations.

But unlike Locke, the Senate Republican plan would give raises to beginning teachers and the lowest-paid school staff.

Charles Hasse, president of the Washington Education Association, welcomed the gesture, but said it does not go far enough. He said the raises proposed by Rossi would help schools attract new teachers, but not retain experienced teachers.

Funding the education initiatives will continue to be a part of the gubernatorial campaign. Andrew Garber wrote in yesterday's Times about spending increases during Gregoire's term in office. The initiatives play a role in the $8 billion jump in spending. As Gregoire told Garber, "I'm not one who disregards the voice of the people."

You can see at the conservative Washington Policy Center blog about what Jason Mercier says is "the selective respect paid by the governor to the will of the voters."

While a commendable position, the problem with this statement is that to fund I-728 and I-732 the governor and the legislature overrode, using an emergency clause, I-601 and I-402 (estate tax reduction).

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