Island legislators favor same-sex marriage, view budget challenges

By Scott Panitz

WNPA Olympia News Bureau

Rep. Judy Clibborn (D-Mercer Island) simply flashed a smile and reached for some papers on her desk. Flipping them over, it turns out they were bumper stickers that read, in all caps: “I do support marriage equality.”

Her position is clear.

“I think it’s a civil rights issue,” she said. “I’m old enough to remember when we had the first Civil Rights movement. This is this generation’s civil rights. It’s just fair.”

Clibborn, along with fellow representative, Rep. Marcie Maxwell (D), is a sponsor of H.B. 1963, which would legalize same-sex marriage in the state.

State Sen. Steve Litzow (R-Mercer Island) was the first Republican to come out in support of the Senate’s version of the bill, S.B. 5793.

All agree that it won’t distract from the legislature’s number one priority, which is cutting nearly a billion dollars in order to balance the state’s general fund budget.

“We’ll be focusing on the budget every day,” said Maxwell, “but it’s always the right time to do what’s fair and equitable, and non-discriminatory for all of our citizens in Washington.”

Litzow’s support for S.B. 5793 in the Senate comes as a surprise to some, considering members of his party have long opposed the issue.

“I think it is personally the right thing to do, and I think it is right for our district,” Litzow, a freshman senator, said in between constituent meetings Friday. “It’s very consistent with being a traditional Republican, where we believe in individual freedom and personal responsibility. We should not be discriminating in this state.”

As for the state’s budget woes, the legislators said they recognize they won’t be able to fund everything and that important services would have to be cut.

Properly funding basic education was cited as the number one priority for the budget by the Mercer Island legislators — a priority reinforced by the recent State Supreme Court decision in McCleary vs. State of Washington, which, in the court’s opinion, identified basic education as constitutionally required and to be funded “considerably more than just adequate.”

Maxwell called higher education a “most important investment,” a statement that was echoed by Clibborn and Litzow, who view it as vital and in need of having its funding preserved as much as possible.

“I’m concerned about higher education because it’s been cut so much, and it’s not protected by the constitution, but it’s so important to our business community,” said Clibborn. “I’m very sensitive to not making too many more cuts or at least being able to target the money that we have to the places where we really need to have it. We don’t want to be importing jobs from other states because they did a better job than we did.”

Clibborn and Maxwell both said they would support the governor’s proposed half-a-cent bump in the sale’s tax as a source of new revenue, and Litzow said he’d be willing to consider it, but “the way the state’s government is currently operating is not sustainable long-term. We need to change that cost-curve and find better ways to get better results.”

As optimistic as Clibborn is about the same-sex marriage bills, she is equally somber about the budget situation.

“We’re beyond making cuts that don’t affect people,” she said. “Whatever we cut, people will feel. It’s about cutting services, and in a recession we actually have more demand on services. We are getting caught in the squeeze of having to provide more services at a time when we’re trying to cut more services. Things will get left out.”


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