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Special session seems likely


Economic downturn forced late scramble, Brown says

OLYMPIA – The Washington Legislature is unlikely to finish work by Easter Sunday, making a special session all but inevitable, Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown said Friday.

At her weekly press briefing, the Spokane Democrat said the Senate was likely to debate the 2011-’13 general operating budget next Monday, and should pass some version of it that day.

But the Senate’s budget is different from the budget the House passed last week, and the two different versions will have to be reconciled in a compromise plan that both chambers will pass and that Gov. Chris Gregoire will sign. The two chambers also must pass the same transportation budget and capital projects budget, and all the legislation needed to make the general operating budget work.

“Many of the cuts need to have bills associated with them spelling out how you do things,” Brown said. “It’s getting pretty close to inevitable” that can’t be done by Easter Sunday, the last day of the 105-day session established by the state constitution.

Asked why time ran out before a budget was passed, she replied: “The economy went really down in the biggest recession since the Great Depression.”

The Senate and House also pursued different paths for writing a budget. The two plans differ on the amounts spent on state-sponsored health care programs. The House budget assumes the state will collect $300 million by selling or leasing its wholesale liquor distribution system. The Senate budget does not call for that change, but does call for 3 percent salary cuts for teachers and other public school employees, a $250 million reduction that’s not in the House proposal.

The Legislature will likely work through late next week, possibly through Good Friday, Brown said. If it has not finished the budgets and other needed bills, the Legislature will likely adjourn for Easter weekend. A special session could start as soon as the following Monday.

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