Photo by Zachariah Bryan
Speaking at the Post-Election Analysis forum, from left to right: Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-36), State Senate Majority Leader Sen. Ed Murray (D-43), Rep-elect Gael Tarleton (D-36), Stranger Editor Dominic Holden, Rep. Reuven Carlyle (D-36)

What's on the minds of 36th District legislators?

What are legislators in the 36th District worried about going into this coming year's legislative session?

At State Senator Jeanne Kohl Welle's (D-36) annual post-election analysis forum at Hale's Ales on Wednesday night, Nov. 14 that's what was discussed. She was joined by Rep. Reuven Carlyle (D-36) incoming Rep. Gael Tarleton (D-36), Stranger editor Dominic Holden, famous-guy and marijuana advocate Rick Steves, and City Attorney Pete Holmes, also a supporter of the marijuana initiative and who joked that people asked if he was Rick Steves while at events. The event was moderated by Nate Miles

The speakers, all Democrats, were jubilant about wins that happened during the elections: President Obama, Jay Inslee, same-sex marriage, marijuana legalization and more. (We reported about the election night wins here.)

One item that will be weighing on Carlyle's mind is the proposed coal export terminal, which lately has garnered media attention and widespread protest. He was part of a group of legislators who sent a letter to Gov. Christine Gregoire demanding the creation of a Statewide Task Force to help study the economic and environmental implications on a bigger scale than the Environmental Impact Study could do on its own. (Read more about that here.)

Murray also expressed discontent with the racial and gender makeup of the Legislature, saying it is older and whiter than ever before. No longer are there Hispanic, single-mother or mothers with school-aged children, he said. "You have to have a place at the table (to have a voice)," he said.

However, the heaviest subject looming over the legislators' minds is the budget deficit they will have to face next year.

The Legislature will be facing a projected $900 million deficit next year. On top of that, the Legislature will need to come up with $1.1 billion to fund education as a result of the State Supreme Court's McCleary decision, which states that Washington has been violating its State Constitution by underfunding K-12 education.

Holden said that something needs to be done. No headway has been made on funding crucial services in Washington, such as health care, disability lifeline and especially education.

"It bears repeating and it bears repeating until we are all blue in the (expletive) face!" Holden said. "We are like a pickle, there is no fat left to cut."

Governor-elect Jay Inslee has been criticized for running on the platform of not raising taxes. Some, including Gov. Christine Gregoire, have said it's simply not possible to both adequately fund education and not increase revenue through taxes.

"I'm telling both candidates I don’t know how you can meet your obligations for McCleary without new revenue," Gregoire said at a news conference during elections.

During her campaign, Tarleton has said that she was in support of a Higher Earner's Income Tax (her opponent, Noel Frame, was an avid supporter of it). She also proposed the idea of a candy and soda sales tax -- which has been rejected by Washington voters before -- and a half-penny increase sales tax.

Another problem, mentioned by Carlyle, is Tim Eyman's Initiative 1185, which requires a two-thirds supermajority vote in the legislature for any and every tax increase. The requirement, which is bolstered by enough immovable Republicans, would make it nearly impossible to raise taxes, unless the initiative is struck down in court as unconstitutional (which Carlyle and others claim should happen).

Holden was adamant in saying that the tax structure, which has been said to be one of the most regressive in the nation, needs to be fixed to make up for revenue problems.

"I don't know how to pick that lock, but I hope you guys do," Holden said.

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