Barring a breakthrough in negotiations, the Legislature appears headed toward a special session to wrap up a state operating budget and possibly other bills.
The GOP-led majority in the Senate maintains it’s possible to finish up by the last day of the 105-day regular session on Sunday. But Democratic budget writers and the governor’s office are either saying more time is needed, or strongly hinting at it.
“I think we’d have to draw to an inside straight to get this done by Sunday night,” Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee said at a news conference on Wednesday.
House Appropriations Chairman Ross Hunter, D-Medina, and House Finance Committee Chairman Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, have both said there’s not enough time logistically to get everything done.
At this point there’s a $900 million gulf between the Democratic House budget and the Senate’s spending plan. That’s the amount of tax revenue in the House budget, which would come from a combination of closing tax breaks and extending a business and occupation tax due to expire this summer.
Senate Republicans say the votes don’t exist in the Senate to close tax breaks or extend the B&O tax. Democrats say there’s no way to adequately fund state services and put more money into education without the revenue. Neither side seems inclined to budge.
On top of all that are several stalled measures that have little or nothing to do with the operating budget, including a proposed $8.4 billion transportation tax package.
Inslee also said he wants the Legislature to approve several controversial measures dealing with drunken driving, gun control, abortion and higher education financial aid for students who are not legal residents.
“I believe it’s my responsibility to do everything humanly possible to get action all of these fronts this year,” Inslee said.
The governor repeatedly said “this year” when talking about the time frame to accomplish all of that.