House, Senate budgets still $1 billion apart
OLYMPIA – The Legislature will wrap up its regular session today, leaving unfinished budget business and a special session on the horizon.
House Democrats and a predominantly Republican coalition in the Senate have passed two very different spending plans for the bulk of state programs and salaries over the next two years, and their bottom lines for how much would be spent in that period are more than $1 billion apart. They also disagree on whether some tax preferences should be eliminated or reduced to help pay for the budget.
The date for that special session, which will be called by Gov. Jay Inslee, has yet to be announced, but it can go for 30 days once it starts. Most legislators could return home for a week or more while budget negotiators remain in Olympia working on a compromise, and the session would begin when a tentative deal is reached.
The two chambers glided through their next-to-last day Saturday with light agendas, using a parliamentary maneuver to allow a vote on a new version of a bill to set up a state website that allows Washington residents to see more easily what transportation and capital projects are being built in their county and legislative district.
Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane, teamed up with Rep. Brad Hawkins, R-East Wenatchee, to reintroduce a proposal that had stalled in a dispute between the two chambers. “Government transparency is not a Democratic or Republican issue,” Riccelli said after it passed the House 92-1.
The Senate agreed Saturday to suspend the rules to allow the bill to come up for a vote; it may give final approval today.
Earlier in the day, the Senate approved changes in the Working Connections Child Care program, which provides subsidies for child care for low-income families. It also gave final approval and sent to Inslee’s desk a technical change in the state’s new legalized marijuana law that attempts to fix a problem stemming from the definition of the drug and chemical tests on the materials seized in some cases.