The Capitol Record

Senate, House leaders try to bridge gap as budget numbers get reworked

Sen. Rodney Tom (D-Medina)

In the days since regular session ended on Sunday, legislative staffers have been reworking the numbers on the Senate and House budget proposals so that negotiators have “accurate information to exchange” when they come to the negotiating table, Senate Republican leader Mark Schoesler said Thursday.

The Legislature is on a two-week break until special session begins on May 13, but key budget negotiators have stayed behind in Olympia to try to work out a budget deal before the rank-and-file members return. The House and Senate stand about $900 million apart in their budget proposals.

Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom told “Inside Olympia” host Austin Jenkins that the Senate sees two major flaws with the House’s budget proposal: It dips into the so-called “rainy day fund,” which would require a 60 percent vote to pass. It also has $184 million less in revenue than originally proposed because the House backed away from a beer tax and ending two tax breaks.

“What we’re saying is: Fill those two gaps, make your budget real, and show us — with those holes — what you’re going to cut,” Tom said. “Once we have a real budget then we can start to negotiate from there.”

Speaker of the House Frank Chopp said his chamber is addressing those concerns.

“We’re updating our budget proposal to deal with issues around the rainy day fund and other specific items to meet the concerns that were raised,” Chopp said. “We’re actively working to bridge the gap.”

The Senate’s budget needs work as well, said House Democratic Majority Leader Pat Sullivan.

“They make some assumptions that we don’t agree with, they have some unidentified cuts I don’t think we can’t utilize, they have some transfers that are unconstitutional — or at best, just bad policy decisions. It’s a significant difference,” Sullivan said.

During regular session, the House passed a budget that includes $900 million in new tax revenue by ending several tax breaks and extending a business tax that was set to expire. The Senate adopted a no-new-taxes budget that instead relies on a combination of cuts to social services, savings and policy changes. The Legislature adjourned on Sunday without a budget deal in place.

Watch the complete interviews on “Inside Olympia” right here.

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