OLYMPIA — The Legislature might still finish on time Sunday, even though the House and Senate have two very different budget proposals and disagreements on some key policy issues, Republican leaders of the Legislature and the Democrat who heads up the Senate's majority coalition said today.
“Logjams can be broken,” Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler of Ritzville said. “We've seen it before. We could see it again.”
“This place is amazing in the miracles that can transpire,” Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina, said.
Speaking less than two hours after Gov. Jay Inslee said a special session will likely be needed to reach agreement on several budgets and other policy measures, Tom, who leads the mostly Republican Majority Coalition, and GOP members of the House and Senate, said they believed it might not be necessary.
The dynamite needed to break the logjam, however, would seem to be House Democrats agreeing to a budget with no new taxes, similar to the one the Senate passed two weeks ago. The House is scheduled to vote this afternoon on a tax package that would generate an extra $900 million over the next two years by eliminating or reducing certain tax exemptions, credits and preferences.
Until that tax package passes, negotiations are difficult because the two sides don't have firm budgets in place for starting points, Sen. Andy Hill, chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said.
Tom and legislative Republican leaders made clear that if a special session is needed, they will put the lion's share of the blame on Inslee for not doing enough to help negotiate a settlement.
“He's not as active as his predecessor,” Schoesler said, a reference to Gov. Chris Gregoire, who often would mediate discussions and keep legislators in a room until they'd reach a compromise.
Inslee said earlier in the morning he and his staff have had regular meetings with legislative leadership and individual legislators to try to reach compromises, but he can't impose a solution on the different sides.
“I was elected governor, not dictator,” he said. “I think people are acting in good faith.”