Don Jenkins/Capital Press File
OLYMPIA — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said Thursday that Senate Republicans should stop the “high jinks” and pass a capital budget, but the GOP lawmaker who held up the budget said he believes Republicans will hold firm until Democrats embrace a “good Hirst fix.”
Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside, said a plan outlined Thursday by Democrats to reopen some rural areas to new wells isn’t sufficient. The proposal would introduce new fees and new limits on water withdrawals.
“We need a good Hirst fix and the latest proposal is not a good fix,” Honeyford said in an email to the Capital Press. “I believe the R’s will hold firm.”
Honeyford, the Senate capital budget chairman during the 2017 session, made passing a $4.5 billion capital budget contingent on Democrats agreeing to reopen rural Washington to new household wells. The state Supreme Court’s 2016 Hirst decision blocked new wells to provide more water for fish.
Democrats picked up a Senate seat in a November special election and gained a 25-24 majority. However, a bill, to fund the capital budget requires 30 votes.
At a press conference Thursday, Inslee renewed his call for Senate Republicans to yield and addressed them directly.
“You went AWOL from a basic obligation,” Inslee said. “Now, you wanted to use this as leverage. We all understand that. But I believe that is a virus that if it infects our Legislature, we’re not going to be able to have functioning government in our state.”
Inslee has placed a higher priority on many other issues, but his advisers have been engaged with lawmakers in crafting a Hirst bill.
“There has been some really good discussion about some way to deal with some of this water issue, and it’s been productive. And I hope it’s successful. But there’s no excuse for not passing a capital budget,” Inslee said.
Honeyford and Sen. Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake, have been at the forefront of negotiating a Hirst bill. Warnick said Tuesday after a hearing on the Democrats’ proposal that she also believes Republicans are still determined to get a Hirst bill before passing a capital budget.
Warnick said she planned to continue talking with Democrats, but had reservations about some elements of their plan.
The proposal includes $200 million over 10 years for fish projects, a $1,500 fee on new wells and a 350-gallon per day limit. The current daily limit is 5,000 gallons The plan also would call for a “pilot project” to meter wells.
Several landowners told lawmakers that the Hirst ruling has stopped them from using their property. An 84-year-old woman said the decision has prevented her from selling land she bought in the 1970s to support her in retirement.
The governor said that not having a new capital budget has held up building projects and forced layoffs.
“We’ve already had to lay off 52 state workers in this holiday season ... because of the high jinks going on here in Olympia,” Inslee said.