OLYMPIA — The road to to adjournment of the special session does not always run smooth.
Voting ground to a halt for a while Tuesday evening as the House waited on the Senate to pass the capital budget and the Senate waited on the House to pass changes to the state pension system.
Ronald Reagan's old phrase: “Trust but verify” could be heard in the wings on both sides of the rotunda.
But a visit by Gov. Chris Gregoire to the leadership offices of both chambers may have restarted the process.
“We're still working it. We're making progress,” Gregoire said as she strode quickly out of Speaker Frank Chopp's office with Majority Leader Lisa Brown at her side.
A few minutes earlier, Senate Democrats seemed convinced that Senate Republicans were about to leave the chamber. But the Republicans were meeting in their caucus room, going over the details of several bills on the list for an upcoming vote. One of their members was upset about something, and made moves to leave for the night, telling at least one colleague “see you next year.”
Benton was gone for a vote or two, but within a half hour was back on the floor and the Senate was voting on parts of the “package”. They approved a modernization of the way the state sends the sales taxes it collects to cities and counties, which provides a one-time boost to the operating budget of about $250 million. That bill, which was a key element of negotiations over the operating budget, has already passed the House and goes to the governor.
The House passed changes to the state pension system, limiting the ability of new hires to retire early with enhanced benefits.
The Senate began debating a change in taxes on “roll-your-own” cigarettes that are bought at machines in commerical establishments. Those cigarettes are currently taxed at a lower rate than a pack of manufactured cigarettes. But that vote was delayed when Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, asked whether it was a new tax which under state law requires a two-thirds majority to become law.
The “roll-your-own” cigarettes bill was set aside and the Senate passed a bill calling for budgets that balance over four years, rather than just two, by an overwhelming 38-9 vote.