Continuing Budget Stalemate In Olympia Leads To Second Overtime Session
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday ordered a second 30-day overtime session of the state legislature. It began immediately after the adjournment of the first special session.
Inslee really had no choice but to call the legislature into double overtime.
"It needs to get done right now. They need to buckle down and have a reality-based approach," Inslee said testily at an afternoon news conference.
The Republican-led Washington Senate and Democratically-controlled state House are at loggerheads about how to raise the large sum needed to meet a state Supreme Court mandate to adequately fund public schools.
"In the next 30 days legislators are going to find out they are going to have to produce hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue,” Inslee said. “It’s always difficult to create new revenue.”
Inslee acknowledged Tuesday that a capital gains tax he and House Democrats had previously backed is a non-starter for Republicans. In turn, he said Senate Republicans need to acknowledge that the governor will not countenance their idea of raising the state property tax and eliminating local school levies.
"They are going to have to find one or more other options," Inslee said.
Republican Senate Floor Leader Joe Fain said negotiators are making progress behind the scenes.
"Both the public and a lot of legislators are rightfully frustrated with the amount of time that this is taking,” he said. “But I am optimistic based on the progress that I'm hearing from those education negotiations that we're going to get somewhere."
Fain would not divulge any details of about what compromises have been made so far.
There is a hard deadline looming. If a new state budget is not in place by June 30, a partial government shutdown is possible.
"That is not something that is going to be in anyone's best interest," Fain said. "I don't think there is any interest to shut down government for any reason whatsoever."
Few legislators were present for the perfunctory gaveling to a close of the first special session. Most lawmakers went home to their districts after the late-April conclusion of the regular, 105-day session of the Washington Legislature except for key budget and policy negotiators.
The state House and Senate did not pass any legislation on to the governor during the first overtime session. Special sessions have become a not-so-special routine in Olympia over the past two decades. The last time state lawmakers finished writing an operating budget within the normal time allotted under the state constitution was in 2009.
Uncertainty about which programs will be funded at what level in the next two-year state budget is creating problems for some school districts and local governments. They are hesitant to make job offers to teachers or sign contracts for the next fiscal year without knowing exactly how much state support they will receive.
Dozens of unionized teachers rallied on the steps of the state Capitol under the midday sun Tuesday to vent their displeasure with the legislature's slow pace. The demonstrators received a brief, impromptu greeting from Inslee.
In an email blast to his supporters Tuesday, anti-tax activist Tim Eyman wrote he was untroubled by the extended duration of this year's legislative sitting.
"Ever since the Republicans took control of the state senate in 2013... taxpayers have benefited from special sessions," Eyman said. "There's been a direct correlation: the longer the legislative session lasts, the fewer taxes get raised."
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