OLYMPIA —Negotiators are making progress on a budget compromise that would cover the state's operating costs for the next two years, Gov. Jay Inslee said this morning.
But not enough that Inslee could say for certainty whether the Legislature will be working full-time starting Monday, when the special session starts.
“I think progress was made this week,” Inslee told reporters after ceremonial bill signings in his office conference room. He expects negotiators from both parties and both chambers will “start making the hard compromises necessary.”
The Legislature failed to pass a two-year operating budget during its 105-day regular session which ended April 28. Inslee called a special session to begin May 13, but budget staff and key leaders have spent parts of the last two weeks trying to find areas for compromise. Operating budgets passed by the Senate and House are more than $1 billion apart in terms of total spending, and the House budget calls for changes in tax exemptions the Senate does not.
When the Legislature adjourned on April 28, Inslee described the sides as “light years apart.” Budget negotiators met on Tuesday and today, he said. Other than to say they were making progress, Inslee said he couldn't elaborate. “We've agreed not to talk about negotiations.”
After convening at 9 a.m. Monday, legislators could hold hearings on some other issues that they or Inslee would like brought up in the special session. Among those are tougher rules for repeat drunk-driving offenses which had strong support when introduced but hit a few roadblocks over questions of funding in the final weeks of the session. Inslee said he thought negotiators were “99.5 percent of the way” to a compromise that would save counties and cities money on drunk-driving cases but may cost the state more money. If that's the case, budget negotiators will have to be sure the operating budget will have money to cover those changes, he said.