OLYMPIA -- The House of Representatives returned today in force, if not quite en masse, to handle several bills and get an update on tax discussions with the Senate.
But they're expecting to be sent home this afternoon, with no debate or vote on the state's ailing budget, with orders to return next Friday. In the meantime, Speaker Frank Chopp, Majority Leader Lisa Brown and the two chambers' Democratic revenue leaders will continue to seek agreement, or at least less disagreement, on a tax package that can get 25 votes in the Senate and 50 votes in the House.
The $200 million the Senate raises through a bump in the sales tax continues to be a sticking point, sources said, although it's possible Senate leaders have come up with a way to cover about half of that through other means.
There is no "deal," sources said. There is no firm proposal that could lead to a "deal." There are some ideas that could become a proposal that could lead to a "deal."
There's is nothing the public can look at and say "Wow, what a great idea!" or "Are you out of your mind?"
A deal, of course, isn't really a deal until it passes both chambers with a tacit understanding that Gov. Chris Gregoire is going to sign it.
Bringing them back next Friday could instill a sense of finality to everything. The final day of this 30-day session is Tuesday, so the clock will be ticking a little louder each day. No agreement by midnight Tuesday and they go home with no budget changes, which means Gregoire can only balance the budget through across-the-board cuts to programs not required by constitutional mandate or an agreement to accept federal funds.