An update for that last blog post implying another week of work for the Legislature in a second special session that likely starts Wednesday morning: House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan just spoke to reporters and the Covington Democrat said that the House and Senate are fa-a-a-r from closing in on a deal – and he’s not talking a few days.
“We are still pretty far apart,” Sullivan said, noting Gov. Jay Inslee‘s statement before special session that the parties were light years apart. “I would say we are still somewhere out in space,’’ Sullivan said.
The Republican-led Senate passed a budget on Saturday that hews largely to its April position and on Sunday passed three policy bills it wants in exchange for considering any new revenue. Our post from earlier today about the reality of a second special session that would begin Wednesday is here.
In the meantime, House Democrats are shifting gears and preparing for what happens in the event a Washington, D.C.-style government shutdown occurs on July 1. That is when the next budget cycle begins and a new two-year budget is needed to avoid shutting down programs and agencies.
House Capital Budget chair Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish said his caucus is moving to vote – this afternoon – on an emergency capital-budget bill that would pay to continue projects already under way. This would avoid lawsuits that could occur if money were not available to pay contractors in July.
“If this doesn’t happen, people put down their hammers … and contractors don’t get paid,” Dunshee said. “This was a realization over the weekend after the futility of it became apparent. (I saw) we are moving toward a shutdown here and there will be an impact.”
Sullivan contended the Senate is holding the budget ransom in order to get three bills – a change to workers compensation law, a new spending limit for non-education programs, and changes to law that would let principals have more say in having teachers reassigned to their school – dubbed the “mutual consent” bill.
Sullivan said the width of the gulf on taxes and spending became clear when the Senate voted on a budget Saturday that did not include new revenue – and instead put proposals to correct two court rulings costing the state potentially hundreds of millions of dollars into separate bills the Senate has not yet approved.
“We agreed with their position on 71 things” in the House budget plan that passed last week, Sullivan said. He said the House reduced its revenue assumption by $800 million.
“As Hans said, they brought DC-style politics into our state. … They said we are not going to give you a budget until you pass these bills,’’ Sullivan said, unleashing stronger language than he typically uses.
Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom on Sunday proposed sending the policy bills out to voters to decide, calling it a compromise. But Sullivan said voters put legislators in Olympia to make those decisions.
Senate Ways and Means chair Andy Hill, R-Redmond, said the public can decide. He said the bill giving principals more power, which is opposed by the Washington Education Association, is backed by 85 percent of the public.
UPDATE: The House went ahead and voted for the stop-gap budget, valued at about $2.4 billion – or two thirds the size of the roughly $3.6 billion package originally proposed. Dunshee said it could sustain 24,000 jobs.
House Republican Leader Dan Kristiansen of Snohomish rejected the Democrats’ talk of a GOP-triggered government shut down. He said there is no reason one has to take place if the Democratic leadership in the House and Republican coalition leaders in the Senate would talk to each other.