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Posts tagged: 2012 Legislature

Gregoire: McKenna budget possible ‘monkey wrench’

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.

No time for ‘social issues’ in 2012 Legislature?

OLYMPIA — Republicans pushed back Thursday against Gov. Chris Gregoire's call for the legalization of same-sex marriage in the upcoming legislative session.

But Gregoire made clear she would stick to her guns on the issue.

One of the main candidates to replace Gregoire said the Legislature shouldn't make the decision on its own. Instead, state Attorney General Rob McKenna said, it should send any proposal it passes to the ballot and give voters the final say.

At panel discussion for the top Democratic and Republican leaders sponsored by the Associated Press Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt of Walla Walla argued that a short, 60-day session with a major budget hole is not the place for “social reform” that could roil the legislators: We should leave social issues off the agenda,” Hewitt said.

He also questioned whether one of the proponents of same-sex marriage legislation, Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, will have time to devote to that bill while serving as chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee. Murray, who is openly gay, is “vested in this personally”, Hewitt said. “I really don't want his attention taken away” from the budget.

House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt of Chehalis questioned how Democrats could devote time to hearings on same-sex marriage legislation when they won't set aside time for hearings on GOP reform proposals: “Apparently we have time to hear certain bills but not other bills.”

Democratic leaders said it's an issue the Legislature should take up this session. “This is the right time to move forward with marriage equality,” Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown of Spokane said.

In a separate session, Gregoire agreed that fixing the budget is “priority one.” But there's time to debate her proposal on same-sex marriage, too, she insisted: “What will history say when we say 'Sorry, but we had a budget to pass so we continued to discriminate.' In tough times, we stand up to the challenge.”

And legislators can find time to do more than just the budget, she added. “I multi-task; they multi-task. It can be discussed thoughtfully and deliberately.”

In a later interview, McKenna said that while same-sex marriage may be an important issue for some legislators and Gregoire, he didn't know if a short session with a deep budget problem is the best time to address it.

“This is an issue for the voters to decide. I hope if they do pass it, they send it to the voters,” McKenna said. Such a requirement might mean the legislative maneuvering and debate over such a contentious issue will take less time, because voters would have the final say, he added.

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About this blog

Jim Camden is a veteran political reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Jonathan Brunt is an enterprise reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Kip Hill is a general assignments reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

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