The Washington Legislature is moving slowly and steadily into a second special session. It would start after the first 30-day overtime period ends Tuesday. Lawmakers are still working on a two-year operating budget, a construction projects budget and transportation tax package, and hearings were planned Monday afternoon on the GOP-tiling Senate’s tax bills.
But the stuff that needs to be agreed on is big stuff like the $33.3 billion to $33.6 billion operating budget for 2013-15. The result: Lawmakers’ typically sunny (and not very credible) chit chat about working to get everything done by the last day of session is finally giving way to what passes for realism at the Capitol.
There was frank recognition Monday they won’t hit their (still-moving) target for finishing up.
“We’re not going to get done tomorrow,” said Senate Republican Caucus chair Linda Evans Parlette of Wenatchee. She spoke after a midday trip to the House to set up a meeting between her Majority Coalition Caucus leadership and House Speaker Frank Chopp’s team. “People just need to talk,” she said.
And maybe compromise?
The House substantially shrank its budget last week, but also cut the size of its new K-12 schools investments, while Senate Republicans passed a budget that mostly had small adjustments but still cuts programs helping the needy and homeless - while relegating any new revenue to separate bills that the anti-tax Majority Caucus Coalition may never actually vote on.
Or the Senate may not vote on them until it can get the House to approve its major policy proposals on capping non-school spending, changing the workers’ comp system to allow more disabled workers to get cash payouts of pensions, changing school rules to give principals more power over transfers of teachers, and creatng a new version of consumer payday loans.
“We moved $800 million. Their turn,” said Rep. Larry Springer, a Kirkland Democrat and House deputy majority leader, who also was waiting to get into a meeting with Chopp and other Democratic leaders.
Sen. Andy Hill, the top Senate budget writer, scheduled hearings for 3 o’clock this afternoon on several tax bills and other legislation needed to implement a Senate-style budget. He said they’ll “probably” vote them out of committee the same day but expects the bills will sit in Rules Committee until a comprehensive budget deal is reached, which is more likely in the next session – and everyone publicly hopes is before the new fiscal year begins July 1.
Hill said he’s still working to get a deal but he and others say a capital budget will need extra time – even after an agreement is reached on the operating budget. Then there is the transportation tax package that seems to fallen out of most conversations recently but is still a priority for many once the operating budget is completed.
Gov. Jay Inslee had said last week his inclination was to call lawmakers back to start work in the second special session on Wednesday morning. Aides said today that is still the governor’s thinking – although Inslee had hoped last week to avoid making that call.
“I think it’s pretty clear more time is needed,” Inslee spokesman David Postman said.