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Spin Control

Wed., March 31, 2010, 11:55 a.m.

WA Lege SpecSess: Pro Forma…it’s at least cheaper

OLYMPIA -- Here's the good news as the Special Session creeps through Day 17: things are waaaay cheaper when most of the honorables are out of town and back home.

The initial cost estimates for the Special Session were $18,300 a day, when all the expected staff time and the legislators' $90 a day food and lodging allowance (known by that classy Latin moniker of per diem) were added up.

But then a bunch of legislators said they wouldn't take no stinking per diem, and others said they wouldn't take it on days that they weren't doing anything. And then most of them got sent home on rolling recess, and when not in Olympia they aren't taking it, either.

Then much of the session staff got laid off, and full-time legislative staff that splits its time between Olympia and the offices back in the district went home to unlock the doors and air out the work space back there.

Bottom line, these days when only a few legislative leaders are around trying to reach an agreement on taxes cost about $2,500 a day, according to folks in the House and Senate who have to keep track of these things.

That will go up some on Thursday if the Senate returns as planned to caucus on tax proposals. But nothing much is happening today, so this should be another low-cost day.

As for a cost-benefit analysis, it depends on your perspective. From a GOP standpoint, every day the Democrats don't raise taxes is a good day, so paying less while not getting a tax hike would be a good thing, but just needing a special session is a bad thing.

From the Democratic perspective, the budget has to be fixed, and the sooner it's done and everyone goes home, the better. If a deal is struck, the cost/benefit ratio on these cheapo days is huge; no deal means whatever the cost, there's nothing to put in the benefit column.

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Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981. He is currently the political reporter and state government reporter in the newspaper's Olympia bureau office.

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