Posted by: sweeneyblog | March 26, 2014

Kevin Ranker Labors on Democratic Budget

Capital Beat

Weekly Legislative Coverage

With the session done for the year, I spoke with Sen. Kevin Ranker about his perspective on the last three months. “There were parts of it that were extremely difficult and there were parts that were extremely rewarding.” A politician’s answer if ever there was one, but peeling back the layers, I got an inside look at the budget writing process.

“It was scary for me, going from being a policy lead to a budget lead,” Ranker confessed, “but I made the right choice.” It is a grueling path. While committee chairs like Sen. Doug Ericksen, put in long hours, being on the budget team of four senators, two Democrats and two Republicans, is an intense grind. “We were in there from 7:30 a.m. till 9 p.m. at the earliest. Some days, it would be 4 p.m. and Kendel would ask me if I had eaten anything yet. ‘Somebody get me a wrap!'”

Ranker described the process for building the budget. “First, I would interview each caucus member for their priorities, then I would meet with leadership and then with Sen. Nelson to hammer out our core priorities.” He wrote them on a piece of paper that he kept in his shirt pocket throughout the entire process and was able rattle them off by memory. “Restoring funding to mental health services, funding education, and no cuts to family planning.”

Ranker debates the budget in committee

Ranker debates the budget in committee

The budget passed with one of the highest vote totals recorded, with all but one senator voting yes. “In the end, we ended up with a big ‘D’  democratic budget and I am very proud of that.” However, he acknowledges there are several areas where they were not able to finish the job. “We didn’t fund the Cost of Living Adjustment for teachers, the Republicans just said no way. I think this is horrible, we will not be able to recruit or keep our high quality teachers unless we offer them comparable wages. It is absolutely necessary and that did not get done this year.”

He also noted some collateral damage. One of his goals was no new tax breaks and this budget did not include a single new tax break, much to the exasperation of Rep. Jeff Morris, who sought to extend a tax break for solar companies this session.

In terms of what Ranker personally accomplished in terms of legislation: Not much. Ranker has not been seen making speeches on the floor of the Senate and all but one of his bills died. Ranker said he was lamenting his lack of legislation and Sen. Sharon Nelson said, “You’ve got one hella of a bill. It’s the budget!” That said, Ranker cited a few accomplishments that he is proud of.

Sen. Kevin Ranker

Sen. Kevin Ranker

He passed his farm internship bill (SSB5123) which was delivered to the governor. His other nine bills died in committee. “Most were killed by Ericksen or Randy Becker,” he said. UPDATE: Doug Ericksen contests that hereRanker doubled the funding for the One America program, which helps provide a path to citizenship for immigrants who need it. He inserted a budget provision so that two shelters for AIDS patients would be able to stay open, and added funding for the Department of Ecology to start collecting data on the shipment of toxic fuels through communities.

Now he is ready for the interim. Instead of opening a legislative office in Bellingham, Ranker is committing to doing coffees every other week in Fairhaven so his constituents can talk with him face-to-face about the issues that matter. As soon as I have the first date for one of these events, I will share it here on my blog.

Bills Introduced: 10

Bills Passed out of the Senate: 1

Bills Delivered to the Governor: 1

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Responses

  1. Thanks for tracking how very hard he is working and how much the budget takes from his ability to get his pet projects through the process. He will get blamed for not being there for votes, but then no good deed goes unpunished…..

    • Ranker, a day late and a dollar short, like a good Democrat.

  2. […] week, I covered the legislative accomplishments (or lack there of) from Sen. Doug Ericksen and Sen. Kevin Ranker. Now it is time to dive into the accomplishments of the other four representatives from the Whatcom […]


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