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Spin Control

Posts tagged: Senate budget

Gregoire: Everybody has to give on budget

Gov. Chris Gregoire: “Not interested in a special session.”

OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire said she still has hopes the Legislature can reach a budget deal by midnight Thursday, the end of the current session, but conceded there is no deal at this point.

“I will fight to the end to get out of here on time,” Gregoire told reporters Tuesday morning. “I'm not interested in a special session.”

But if there's no compromise by the end of the day, that will be difficult, she said. And while there are things that she'll push for, she doesn't know what a workable compromise is yet: “I'll know it when I see it.”

After House Democrats passed a budget solely with their members support, Senate Republicans got the support of three conservative Democrats in that chamber to use a parliamentary procedure Friday and pass a very different spending plan with more program cuts, no new taxes and fewer accounting shifts. The move caught Senate Democratic leadership by surprise.

Gregoire declined to speculate on how the majority  leadership miscounted the support for their budget, and said she, too, was surprised by some of the things that became a point of contention between the two caucuses. But Friday' night is “Over. Done. Through.” and all sides have to work out the compromise.

She's also not interersted in a solution that has been suggested by some legislators: forget about a revised budget and give her extra flexibility to cut programs or agencies. Under current law, a governor can only make across the board cuts for all agencies to avoid a deficit.

Gregoire has asked for expanded authority to handle budget problems for several years, but that's not the solution for this budget problem, she said. “They have to pass a budget.”

Sunday spin: Transparency depends on your side of the looking glass

As the state Senate descended into an extended match of political jujitsu Friday, the word of the night – perhaps the entire legislative session – was “transparency”.

It sprang so readily from the lips of legislators that it was important to remember the various sides meant something different as they claimed they had it and the other didn’t. In politics, people often use a word like Humpty Dumpty: it means what they say it means, nothing more and nothing less.

This session, transparency seems to be like one of those windows one sees on television cop shows, where officers watches through a one-way glass as a detective grills the suspect. It’s transparent from the dark little room where other cops watch but reflectively opaque to the suspect even when he walks to the glass on his side and mutters “I know you’re back there, you lousy coppers.”

To read the rest of this item, go inside the blog.

Senate Republicans pass alternative budget

OLYMPIA — An alternative Republican budget passed the Senate 25-24 early Saturday morning after more than nine hours of parliamentary maneuvering and sometimes heated debate.

Sen. Joe Zarelli, R-Ridgefield, the architect of the spending plan said he hoped the Legislature could now “go forward” and negotiate a budget between House and Senate proposals, although Democrats on the short side of the vote seemed doubtful.

Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent, said any negotiations will be difficult: “We can't negotiate in good faith if you don't have trust….The Senate was hijacked tonight.”

Sen. Jim Kastama, one of the three Democrats who joined with Republicans, admitted the plan is not perfect: “It's a beginning. It is a bipartisan budget that sets the stage for a sustainable budget in the future. The final budget will not look like this.

“There is a time to campaign for what you want, and there's a time to govern with what you have.”

Sen. Tim Sheldon, another Democrat who broke ranks to support the budget, said it merely gives conservatives “a chance to negotiate.”

If Republicans and the dissenting Democrats want to negotiate, they'll have to give up their demand for an all-cuts budget, Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle said. They'll have to be willing to negotiate on tax exemptions and tax preference, or the Legislature will be in a special session for a very long time, he said.

Sen. Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, said changes the Democrats tried but failed to make showed her party's priorities for the poor, the sick and the disadvantaged. The Republicans cuts show a preference “for the folks who've alreadly got it made.”

Brown said she was fooled by Republican leadership, after meeting “week after week” and being told they'd show Democrats their proposals. “I was fooled,” she said.

But Sen. Mike Hewitt of Walla Walla, the minority leader, said he and Zarelli hadn't been at a scheduled meeting with Brown and Murray since Feb. 16.

The Senate budget will now have to be negotiated with a much different House spending plan, written and passed by Democrats, and Gov. Chris Gregoire, who must sign it.

Sen. Mike Baumgartner, R-Spokane, said Democrats put up a good fight over their amendments, but “you got beat by the rules.” The public, he said, doesn't want a conservative budget or a liberal budget.

“The people of Washington just want a budget that works,” he said. The two parties will have to get together to work on that. “We're gonna be mad for a few days…then figure out what we need to make it work.”

Among Spokane-area senators, Democrat Lisa Brown voted against the GOP budget, Republicans Mike Baumgartner, Mike Padden, Bob Morton and Mark Schoesler voted yes. On the unsuccessful Democratic amendments, the votes were reversed.

Senate budget debate continues

Sen. Lisa Brown argues for an amendment to restore money for family planning.

OLYMPIA — It'safter  10 o'clock. Do you know where your senator is?

In session. The state Senate removed a rule that requires they adjourn for the day at 10 p.m. and continued its debate over alternative GOP budget proposal moved onto the floor by a parliamentary coup by minority Republicans joined by three conservative Democrats.

“This budget is a backroom deal, and a poltical stunt,” Sen. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor charged as tempers showed signs of fraying.

Starting about 8 p.m., Democrats began offering a long list of amendments to restore finding Republicans are proposing to a wide range of state programs in order to make their budget balance without a tax increase or a shift of some $330 million in payments to schools.

Some of the amounts they tried to restore were large, including $148 million for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and $85 million for the Disability Lifeline. Some were relatively small, like $116,000 for international trade. They covered money for public schools and state universities, pension plans and toxic waste cleanup.

All failed, either by the one-vote marging that allowed Republicans to push their budget into the debate, or by voice votes.

Republicans said they were making difficult trade-offs among the state's many programs, and setting priorities. Democrats questioned how those priorities were being set, with a budget that had no public hearings.

“If you think this program is really important,…show how your going to pay for it,” Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale.

“We have a way to pay for it,” Sen. Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, responded. They would cancel changes to schools required by an initiative but often suspended and delay a payment the state is scheduled to school districts.

They locked horns constantly on that major difference between the alternative GOP plan forced onto the floor and the Democrats plan, that remains in the Ways and Means Committee. Democrats want to delay $330 million payment the state makes to schools by one day, from the last day of this biennium to the first day of the next, and keep that payment schedule.

Republicans call that a gimmick, and that the state should pay it's obligations on time. “It's pushed forever into the next year,” Sen. Joe Zarelli, R-Ridgefield, said.

That “looks good on paper,” Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle countered, but it results in real cuts in the classroom and to social programs.

The schools prefer the accounting move, called an apportionment shift, over cuts to the classroom, based on testimony on the Democrats' budget plan at the Ways and Means Committee, Brown said, turning to Republicans. “If you had been there, you would've heard.”

During a break in the debate, Zarelli said he realized that the budget propsal would go through changes in negotiations with the House. But Republican ideas would be represented at those discussions with one GOP budget on the table.

WA Lege Day 99: Senate passes 2011-13 operating budget

OLYMPIA — The Senate gave overwhelming bipartisan support to a $32.1 billion general operating budget for 2011-13, setting the stage for negotiations with the House, which approved a significantly different spending plan.

The bill containing the budget, with cuts to most state programs, passed on a 34-13 vote after leaders of both parties said it wasn't the spending plan they would have written if they were working alone. Instead it represented ideas from liberals and conservatives, and amounted to what one senator likened to the first man landing on the moon.

“This is the first bipartisan budget, ever,” Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, proclaimed.

Debate occured after Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, the Senate's president, ruled the budget did not contain a tax increase by moving money from the Liquor Control Board's account into the general fund. Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlach, contended it did, and that the budget would thus need a two-thirds majority to pass.

Even though Owen said that fund transfer was not a tax increase, and the budget needed only a simple majority to pass, it received more than the 33 votes necessary for the supermajority.

For the print edition of the Senate budget vote, clikc here to go inside the blog.

WA Lege Day 99: Is there a new tax in Senate bill?

OLYMPIA — The Senate was about to begin debate on its version of the 2011-13 general operating budget when Sen. Tim Sheldon brought things to a halt with a “point of order.”

Sec. 949, which requires the Liquor Control Board to provide a total of $85 million to the general fund over the two year period, is actually a tax increase, Sheldon argued. The board doesn't have that money sitting in reserve, and will have to raise taxes to come up with it.

Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, argued that it's not a tax, because the board is free to come up with the money any way it chooses, including reducing expenses. The budget “makes no assumptions” about how the money is generate, and is therefore not a tax increase.

The Senate went into general milling about while Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, who determines who's right on a point of order, studies the question.

WA Lege Day 99: Senate begins budget debate

OLYMPIA — The Senate is beginning its debate on the 2011-13 general operating budget, taking up a series of amendments. First up is an amendment designed to spare several state mental health institutions from closure and consolidation.

WA Lege Day 99: Senate to debate budget

OLYMPIA — The Senate is expected to take up its version of the general fund operating budget today, the last day of the session that can be counted without three digits.

Legislators and Gov. Chris Gregoire conceded  late last week that a special session is going to be needed to get general fund, capital and transportation budgets passed out of both chambers and the differences negotiated. The real question now is how much will get done before the Legislature takes a break for Easter, sometime late this week.

Secondary question: How long will it take them in a special session to finish the job?

WA Lege Day 93: Senate budgets after day of votes

OLYMPIA — The Senate releases its 2011-13 general operating and capital budgets this evening, sometime after 5 p.m.

Why so late? Because today is one of those make-it-or-break-it days for legislation. A non-budget bill that started in one chamber has to pass the other chamber by 5 p.m. (give or take) or be dead.

In honor of the long list of bills it faces, the Senate is cutting back on debate and taking a shorter lunch

The give or take involves when the discussion starts. As long as debate starts before 5 p.m., the vote can take place afterwards, so the gavel doesn't come down exactly at 5:00:00 p.m. But it means neither chamber is likely to go into the wee hours of Wednesday morning, because legislators eventually get hungry for dinner.

The budgets will be released shortly after the Senate recesses for the day.

The big question will be how different they are from House versions. The House passed its 2011-13 operating budget Saturday on a largely party-line vote, but Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, said there will be some changes in the Senate plan. It will try to keep Basic Health, Disability Lifeline and Children's Health programs, but not necessarily at the same levels as the House, she said. The governor's plan eliminated those programs entirely.

The Senate is also not likely to propose selling or leasing the state's alcohol distribution center and using the money to pay for programs.

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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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