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Spin Control

Wed., March 21, 2012, 4:04 p.m.

Special Session Day 10: No budget agreement yet

OLYMPIA -- Discussions between the Legislatlure's top budget writers are "going good," one of the participants said Wednesday, but don't get your hopes up for a compromise soon.

"We haven't reached an agreement," Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, said before Senate Democrats gathered for an afternoon caucus meeting."The conversations are more constructive this week. I've seen movement this week."

Murray, the chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said budget writers are looking at options that use neither a delay of a $330 million payment to schools,which Democrats support and Republicans oppose, nor the skipping a $140 million payment to the state pension systems, which Republicans support and Democrats oppose

He said he couldn't reveal those options yet, to avoid negotiating in the news media. But he encouraged the public to contact legislators about state programs they want continued.

An umbrella group for social service, health, children and religious groups tried to turn up the pressure a few hours earlier with a press conference to support a wide array of programs that would be cut under a budget proposed last week by Senate Republicans and three Democrats who create a working majority on budget matters in that chamber.

People who rely on such programs as Disability Lifeline, State Food Assistance for legal immigrants, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Working Connections, called them investments in the future rather than handouts.

To pay for the programs, they suggested the state close some tax exemptions and consider delaying the payment to schools. 

As a countermeasure, Republican legislative staff left a stack of editorials and guest columns on a table near the door of the press conference that praised GOP-crafted budgets -- which cut many of those programs and don't end tax exemptions or delay the school payment.

Wednesday marked the 10th day of the 30-day special session, but most legislators were absent. The House and Senate had brief pro forma sessions, which open and close in a matter of minutes, if not seconds, then recessed until Friday.

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