Budget writers met this week for two days of budget “briefings,” but have yet to resolve more than 1,000 differences between the budgets passed by the Democrat-controlled House and the Republican majority Senate, according to Democratic legislative leaders.
“Going through each section of the budget, going through where the differences are, where the decisions have to be made — that’s what is happening right now,” House Democratic Majority Leader Pat Sullivan told reporters on Thursday.
The Legislature began a 30-day special session on April 29 after adjourning regular session without a two-year operating budget in place.
House Speaker Frank Chopp said there remains “major differences” between the two budgets, highlighting a difference of $450 million more in the Democratic budget for K-12 basic education than the Republican approach.
Senate Republican Majority Leader Mark Schoesler said Democrats don’t have the money for the $450 million expenditure. “They can spend it, but they can’t pay for it,” he said at a Republican media availability.
Legislators on both sides of the aisle are pushing to get an early revenue forecast update to see if the state will collect more revenue.
Waiting for June 17, when the revenue forecast is scheduled to be released, is “just too late,” said Sen. Sharon Nelson, D-Maury Island.
“We’re open to that idea because we think June is too darn late,” said Sen. Schoesler.
Democrats say there will be an announcement on Monday of a “new approach” to Gov. Jay Inslee‘s proposed cap-and-trade plan, followed by hearings on the plan later in the week.
“It’s a good faith effort to say, ‘Look, if the Senate Republicans don’t want to consider capital gains or the business and occupation revenue, then we need some other ideas on the table.’ And we’re putting this forward as another idea,” Chopp said.
Schoesler criticized the idea. “This isn’t about cap-and-trade. This is about taxes,” he said. “It’s really a tax bill, not an environmental bill.”
Sen. Doug Ericksen, chair of the Senate Energy and Environment Committee, said he would give the bill a hearing if it passed by the House.
Sen. Ericksen said he met with Gov. Inslee this week to discuss several other energy bills that legislators want to consider during special session, including a reform of Initiative 937, a bill related to solar energy and a proposal dealing with coal facilities.
Special session is scheduled to end on May 28. If legislators do not have a budget by that deadline, the governor could call for another special session.
Sen. Linda Evans Parlette, R-Wenatchee, raised concerns that if legislators are forced into further overtime, hotels in Olympia are fully booked in June for the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay.
“We are hoping not to be here in June,” she said. ” I don’t think it would be fun to camp out in the Capitol with motel rooms not available here. So there are extra incentives for us to get all this done.”
TVW taped the Democratic and Republican media availabilities, which will be made available online in our archives.