How close are they to reaching a budget deal? About this close, Gov. Chris Gregoire said today.
OLYMPIA -- Legislative negotiators are closer to a comprehensive agreement on the state's General Fund budget, but some of the hardest decisions remain, Gov. Chris Gregoire said today.
Gregoire said they need to reach agreement by next Tuesday to have any chance of the Legislature working out the details, writing the budget in the proper legal language and passing it by Good Friday. Plans for Rob McKenna, the Republican attorney general running for governor, to announce his own budget proposal on Monday are not helpful, she said.
"I don't need something external...to throw a monkey wrench into it," she said of budget talks.
The McKenna campaign announced the likely GOP gubernatorial nominee will release a "budget policy paper" Monday afternoon in Olympia.
"The failure of the Legislature to complete its most basic task of passing a budget proves that Olympia is broken and highlights the need for a new direction," McKenna said in a prepared statement accompanying the announcement of the press conference. "My budget policy paper provides some specific ideas on how a McKenna administration will approach creating a sustainable budget."
Sustainability has been one of the main watchwords of legislative Republicans as they pushed for changes in the spending plans of majority Democrats. But both sides argue that the other has proposed things that are one-time budget gimmicks and therefore not sustainable. Republicans criticize Democratic plans to delay a payment to the school districts by a day, shifting those costs into the next biennium. Democrats criticize Republican plans to skip a payment to the state's pension systems.
Gregoire has said both ideas are "off the table" as negotiators look for a comprehensive budget solution.
The governor said she hadn't heard of McKenna's plans but contended that a specific spending plan at this stage would not be helpful. "I don't need a sixth budget proposal. Why weren't these ideas brought up to us two months ago or one month ago?"
Budget negotiators are looking at a package of ideas that touches all aspects of the budget along with ideas for reform and added revenue. "There's something in that package for all of them not to like," she said. Once there's an agreement among leaders, they'll have to put it to their members and see if they have the votes to pass it.