OLYMPIA — The Legislature will quit sometime today and return for a special session on the budget at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
Gov. Chris Gregoire, standing with the Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate, said this afternoon they had reached agreement on when the special session will start. How long it will take, however, was less definite. Asked if the Legislature will take the full 30 days available under the state Constitution, she replied: “I hope not, but never say never.”
The session will be narrowly focused on the three major state budgets — general operating, capital projects and transportation — and changes to state law needed to make those budgets work. Those changes may need as many as 60 separate pieces of legislation to pass, and some of them involve “tough policy decisions.”
The proclamation calling the special session describes its limited scope, and bills not related to the budget won't come up unless Gregoire and the four legislative leaders agree. It is broad enough, however, to include proposed changes to the workers compensation system that would allow voluntary settlements for injured workers, because that has an effect on the budget. There may also be hearings on bills for “revenue enhancements” — tax increases or changes to tax exemptions — although leaders of both parties agree there's not a two-thirds majority to pass such changes.
When asked what legislators should tell state residents who wonder why the Legislature couldn't get its work done in the 105 days alloted — they actually worked 103 days and ended early to spend Easter weekend with families — Gregoire suggested they were at least doing better than the U.S. Congress.