OLYMPIA – Most legislators took a couple days of “rolling recess” this week, staying away from the Capitol while their leaders tried to bridge the two opposing views on solving the state’s budget problem.
On one side: Senate Democrats who want to increase the sales tax as part of their plan to raise about $800 million in taxes. On the other side: House Democrats and Gov. Chris Gregoire, who want to raise that money with other taxes.
“They are at an impasse,” Gregoire said Tuesday, on day nine of a special session she’s said should last no more than seven days. Legislators should stay home until there’s movement on one side or the other to save the state some of the costs of the special session, she said.
Republicans, who want the budget gap closed by cuts, not tax increases, are in minorities in both houses and not part of budget talks. House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt, of Chehalis, called the impasse a “family quarrel” among Democrats over which taxes to raise.
“Once they agree on taxes, we can come back to Olympia and finish up the session in a day or two,” DeBolt said in prepared statement.
Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown of Spokane said Monday that most Democrats in the Senate continue to see a sales tax bump as part of a balanced approach to close a projected $2.8 billion budget gap. They have dropped their proposal to two-tenths of 1 percent, from their earlier three-tenths of 1 percent increase, and oppose some other tax increases the House passed.
Gregoire opposes a sales tax increase but has refused to say she’d veto any tax bill that had one. She said Tuesday that she had reiterated her position to Brown. She’s also talked individually with House Speaker Frank Chopp of Seattle.
Legislators are tentatively scheduled to be back on Thursday. Brown said when an agreement is reached on a tax proposal, lawmakers would likely take a couple days to work out other budget details, amend existing bills and pass identical legislation in both houses.