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Few details, but House leaders predict breakthroughs are coming

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on May 18, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
May 18, 2011 6:32 pm

The House had adjourned with plans to not come back until Monday, which seemed like a sign it might be giving up on finishing Wednesday as scheduled. Now, not so much. The budget committee is coming back to meet Friday, and House leaders were tentatively planning a floor session over the weekend.

So is a budget accord approaching?

“We’re getting really close,” House Speaker Frank Chopp said today when he sat down for an interview with Brad Shannon and me after a slew of meetings with other lawmakers and the governor.

“We’ve made progress, a lot of progress, in the last day,” Chopp said. Actually, I counted at least five times he said the word, “progress.”

Chopp said a breakthrough may be coming soon on the debt limit, and that deal could allow a construction budget to pass through the House on Saturday. A “potential solution” on the debt ceiling is being considered, he said, that would “split the difference” between the House and Senate positions on what levels of debt the state should take on.

The big controversy, of course, is over worker’s compensation and specifically the Senate’s demand that injured workers be offered lump-sum settlements as an alternative to pensions. The House might have the votes for lump-sum payments, but House Democrats as a whole and their leader, Chopp, reject them.

Gov. Chris Gregoire has put forward a new, “really interesting” idea on workers’ compensation that House members are seriously considering, House Democratic Floor Leader Tami Green of Lakewood said today.

It’s not a lump-sum settlement, she said — more of a “hybrid” between settlements and pensions. She didn’t give details; legislative leaders are still reviewing the proposal and briefing business, labor and trial lawyers groups on it. I have a call in to the governor’s office about it, but haven’t heard back yet.

“If the idea works, we can get out of here really fast,” Green said.

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