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.