OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire is calling the Legislature back into session starting noon Monday to solve the state’s projected $2.8 billion budget shortfall and telling them to do it in seven days.
Democratic leaders say ageement, and budget negotiators from both houses will work over the weekend in an effort to get numbers at least a simple majority in each chamber can support.
“We know we still have our big task of balancing the budget. We’re not that far apart,” Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, said at the press conference with Gregoire and House Speaker Frank Chopp to announce the special session.
“We’re very close to reaching certain agreements,” Chopp said.
Although technically a special session called by the governor can last 30 days and cover any topic legislators want, Gregoire said she had an agreement from the leaders of both parties in both houses that this special session will be about the budget and a jobs program, and will aim at getting out in seven days.
And if they can’t get done in seven days? “We’re going to get done,” she insisted.
As to criticism from Republicans that a special session was a “embarassing and costly” and a result of disorganization on the part of Democrats who control both chambers by wide margins, Chopp replied the Legislature has managed to avoid overtime special sessions in seven of the last eight years. Even when the sesssion ends on time “they basically always say negative things.”
Gregoire, too, defended the work that was done last year and this year in the face of a slumping economy and multi-billion dollar shortfalls. Last year, 22 states needed special sessions, but Washington avoided one.
“We haven’t shut down government, we haven’t sent out IOUs,” she said. “To my friends on the other side of the aisle, explain how any state has done better than us.”