Baumgartner named vice chair of budget-writing Ways and Means Committee as part of Majority Coalition Caucus

State Sen. Michael Baumgartner,  R-Spokane, has been named vice chair of the key Senate budget-writing committee  – Ways and Means – under a new committee structure proposed this week by the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus.

“People are  sick of the irresponsible, partisan failures they are accustomed to seeing from  government in the other Washington. They want something different, and are  crying out for their leaders to work cooperatively and to get things done,”  said Baumgartner, who as a member of the Ways and Means Committee worked to  successfully construct bipartisan, sustainable budgets in 2011 and earlier this  year.

Baumgartner said it’s common for  Republican legislators to work with their Democrat counterparts when it comes  to drafting, sponsoring and advocating the passage of legislation. The Majority  Coalition Caucus takes that cooperation to a new level; its 25 members have  committed to not only work together, but to govern together, sharing  responsibility and authority for policy and budget decisions.

“I believe the people of Washington are  best served when politicians on both sides of the aisle work together for  fiscal responsibility,” said Baumgartner, who will be a member of both the  Majority Coalition Caucus and Senate Republican Caucus. “For the past two  years, I have worked with both Republican and Democrat senators to pass a  bipartisan, reform-minded and priority-driven budget. Those efforts came  together for only brief periods of time, so I’m really looking forward to  seeing what this new coalition can do, being in place from day one of the 2013  session.”

Under the coalition’s new committee structure,  six of the Senate’s 15 committees will be chaired by Democrats and six will be  chaired by Republicans, with the remaining three having Republican and  Democratic co-chairs. Also, neither party will have more than a one-member  advantage on a committee.

The Senate Ways and Means Committee, which is the primary fiscal committee  for the Washington State Senate, will be composed of 12 Republicans and 11  Democrats. The committee has responsibility for developing operating and  capital budgets and tax and pension policy.

Baumgartner  believes the new bipartisan committee structure unveiled Monday will lead to  greater consensus in the Senate and help produce a budget that will benefit all  Washingtonians.

“We must all work together to address  our fiscal concerns in a way that relies on real reform and rejects the financial irresponsibility, reckless spending, and the use  of political gimmicks we’ve seen in the past,” Baumgartner added. “One  of my main goals in the Senate has always been to reform state government –  make it leaner, more efficient, less costly and more service-oriented. In  essence, I want to help make Washington’s government smarter.

“Washingtonians  want smarter government – one that puts solving the big issues we face ahead of  petty party politics. That’s exactly what I intend to help bring to the Ways  and Means Committee during the 2013 session.”

Baumgartner will begin his new committee duties when the  scheduled 105-day legislative session starts Jan. 14.