OLYMPIA… State government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic is suffering from Gov. Jay Inslee’s resistance to calling the state Legislature into session to help with key decisions, Sen. John Braun said today.
Braun, R-Centralia, Republican leader on the Senate Ways and Means Committee, offered this reaction to new restrictions announced Sunday by Inslee. The governor is attempting to put limits on indoor social gatherings and has increased restrictions on much business activity to where they were earlier in the year:
“More than 250 days since the first COVID-19 death was reported in our state, it’s clear the pandemic is too big for one person or one branch of government to handle. The state’s response has consisted primarily of unilateral mandates from the governor, and no matter how well-intentioned he may be, no American would support the idea that a chief executive should use emergency powers indefinitely to decide any important issue. The people of our state have become tired of having their lives controlled and disrupted by one person. The state’s response would be more effective and better received if the entire Legislature is involved, so that people in all 39 counties could have confidence that their perspectives are being considered.
“If two heads are better than one, then all the heads in the state Legislature plus Governor Inslee’s must be better than the governor’s alone. We have ideas for tax, fee and regulatory relief as well as financial assistance to help small businesses survive and recover – steps that can be taken without putting a larger hole in the state budget – and it’s clear the number of small businesses needing help is only going to grow due to the governor’s new round of restrictions. Also, there are about 300 million dollars in federal pandemic aid that still need to be allocated before the year ends. These are decisions the Legislature needs to make because our branch has budget authority, and it would be smart to make them during a special legislative session that is tightly focused on pandemic relief, sometime in the next month. I realize the 2021 legislative session is less than two months away, but the agenda for that is already full enough.
“We can look at the same COVID-19 statistics as the governor and come to different conclusions about what they mean and how to respond. The new round of restrictions on businesses ignores the fact that it’s in the best interests of employers to ensure their customers and employees feel as safe as possible. The unenforceable new limits on social gatherings go against the idea that the people of our state care deeply about the safety and well-being of those around them. No one is questioning that the pandemic should be taken seriously, or that we should all take precautions to limit the spread of the virus. But it’s one thing to inform the people, and trust them, and another thing to dictate how they should live. The dictates need to end.”