OLYMPIA – As the Senate was extending tax breaks for companies that make movie in the state and killing a plan to extend tourism taxes in Seattle, signs emerged the Legislature might at least make an effort to finish work by next Wednesday’s deadline.
Members of the House of Representatives, who had been told earlier in the week they wouldn’t be in session until next Monday, were given notice late Wednesday to report for work Saturday morning and expect to work every day through the deadline. Senate staff was being told Thursday to expect a similar work schedule.
Work on a budget that can pass both chambers continues behind closed doors but negotiators reportedly are closing the gap for different amounts of spending and savings over the next two years. A bigger question might be whether the two chambers can pass between 30 and 50 separate bills that would be needed to change existing state law so any compromise budget will work.
Changes to the state's workers compensation system are still one barrier to adjournment, but there may be movement on that front, too.
Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, said it may be possible to achieve savings in the state’s workers compensation system without the controversial plan to offer injured workers 55 and older a voluntary settlement, known as compromise and release. The Senate has passed such a bill, and Gov. Chris Gregoire supports it, but House Democrats have so far refused to vote on it.
“What I support is a comprehensive workers compensation bill that helps improve the soundness of the system,” Brown said before attending a late afternoon meeting with Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, and Gregoire. “I’m not caught up on a specific provision.”
A majority of the Senate, however, does still support compromise and release, she added.
Some sort of compromise and release compromise (comp/rel/comp?) would leave a proposal to lower the state's debt limit as the other major barrier. The Senate has proposed dropping the limit from 9 percent to 7 percent; earlier this week, the House Capital Budget Committee offered a compromise, dropping the limit to 8.5 percent.