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Spin Control

Special Session: Do we have a framework?

OLYLMPIA -- After meeting for about two hours, legislative leaders left their discussions with the governor to discuss a possible "framework for an agreement"  with their members that could end the stalemate over the budget.

Leaders of both parties from the two chambers circumvented reporters sitting in the governor's waiting room and went up a floor to where most legislators have been waiting throughout the day. The leaders are due back at 8 p.m.

"She's still holding out hope of midnight" to wrap up all business without another special session, Cory Curtis, a spokesman for Gregoire, said.

But that would require an agreement on language for bills, that must still be drafted and reviewed, then passed in the exact same form in both chambers. Legislative staff could work through the night, but only if that framework for an agreement turns into solid agreements on key pieces of legislation.

Legislators are reportedly close on the operating budget itself, leaders said. The real holdups, as has been the case for weeks, are changes to state programs or policies, which some call reforms, that would reduce state expenses in future years. The main reforms involve revising state budget practices so projections for expenses and revenue balance for four years into the future, rather than two; making medical insurance plans for public school employees more like the health care plans for state employees; and revising the state pension systems so new employees will have a less generous system for early retirement. 

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The Spokesman-Review's political team keeps a critical eye on local, state and national politics.