Olympia budget gridlock still unsolved


Lawmakers told to plan on meeting next weekend

OLYMPIA – The Washington Legislature’s special session could continue through next weekend. House members, who had much of the week off but returned Friday to vote on a few bills, were told to expect a return to floor sessions next Friday and to work through next Sunday.

There was no sign of a deal on the effort to find the right combination of taxes to raise as part of Senate and House Democrats’ solution to a $2.8 billion budget hole. Legislative leaders were still exchanging ideas that could form proposals that might lead to a deal, sources said.

Each chamber has passed a budget that includes some $800 million in new taxes for the remainder of the biennium. But about $200 million of that total is in dispute: A bare majority of Senate Democrats approved a temporary two-tenths of 1 percent increase in the state sales tax; House Democrats passed a proposal from Gov. Chris Gregoire that raises a series of other taxes on businesses but has no sales tax hike.

Discussions to reconcile those two positions have taken place in secret since March 25, when the Senate formally rejected the House proposal.

The special session, which Gregoire called with instructions to find a budget solution and go home in seven days, enters its 20th day today. By law, it can only go 30 days, which would end April 13.

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