Our Views: Declaring Ultimatum to Lawmakers Isn’t Leadership


Gov. Jay Inslee declared on Monday he would veto bills from the state Legislature if the House and Senate do not agree on a supplemental budget compromise by Thursday. 

The governor is correct that the state is in need of money for mental health, wildfires and other currently under-funded initiatives. 

It’s interesting to note, though, that the governor delivered no such ultimatum when the state was on the verge of a government shutdown in 2015. 

It appears, from the outside looking in, that Inslee has spent the past several months dealing with controversies within his cabinet. As the clock winds down and Republicans and Democrats remain divided on important issues, his idea of assisting is to deliver an ultimatum. 

We certainly agree on the need for the Legislature to finish this short session on time, but that work should be done in cooperation with the state’s chief executive officer — not in the shadow of threats to undo important legislative work. 

We also wonder if Inslee is feeling a bit rushed. 

As governor, just as other state officials, Inslee isn’t allowed to raise money for his campaign until after the Legislature adjourns. 

Inslee is facing a strong challenger in the form of Republican Bill Bryant, who has been gaining support while moving across to move voters. 

The Morton-born candidate has been aggressively campaigning against the Democratic incumbent, and his message is finding purchase.

Inslee will need to put together a solid defense of his first term and relay that information to voters between now and November. 

That’s becoming an increasingly difficult task as the governor sees near-constant turmoil within his cabinet. 

Threatening to veto the work of the Legislature rather than helping the two sides move closer to agreement doesn’t help his situation. 

As a final note on vetoes, the Washington Policy Center noted Monday that lawmakers have very little power in countering such threats. 

“One thing the governor’s across-the-board veto threat highlights is the lack of a real veto-override check for the Legislature in Washington,” wrote Jason Mercier, director of the Center of Government Reform. “Since most vetoes occur after the session ends, lawmakers must call a special session to override a veto. Several other states, however, have an automatic veto override session in case they want to act on any vetoes.”

It’s another in a long list of issues that deserve examination in Olympia.