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Could someone call Howie Mandel…

…so he can ask “Deal. Or No Deal?”

It would appear that a legislative deal on a tax package remains somewhat elusive. After meeting for about 35 minutes with Gov. Chris Gregoire, Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown and House Speaker Frank Chopp went out a side door to avoid the waiting press corps that thought they smelled news of a deal.

Brown said in an interview about 4 p.m. that they were very close to what she called a “go home” deal on taxes — so called because it would allow legislators to go  home for good, as opposed to for a few days until their leaders call them back to take votes.

The deal included about $800 million in tax increases for the remainder of the biennium. It got that amount without raising the sales tax, but there would be an increase in the tax on beer. She declined further comment on what was in the proposal, emphasizing that it wasn’t yet final but that she’d be meeting with Gregoire and Chopp shortly.

The three gathered about 4:37 p.m. in Gregoire’s office, and legislative communications staff were standing by for any potential announcement of a deal. Imagine everyone’s surprise when a member of the governor’s staff came out about 5:15 to say Brown and Chopp had left….

While Brown seemed relatively confident she could round up 25 Senate votes for the package, Chopp couldn’t be so sure he could deliver the necessary 50 from the House. A House staff member said as many as 25 Democratic House members may be calling into a teleconference this evening to get briefed on the package and a chance to indicate whether they’d vote yes or no.

No public statements from the House until Thursday morning, when they could get around to appointing their members to a conference committee to handle the end game on the budget and tax package.

Tax deal in the offing?

OLYMPIA — House and Senate negotiators may have reached what they are calling a “go home” deal over taxes.

Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown and House Speaker Frank Chopp started meeting with Gov. Chris Gregoire about 4:35 p.m. today for final discussions on the deal, which would allow the Legislature to adjourn by next Tuesday, the final day of the special session.

Shortly before the meeting, Brown said the deal has no sales tax increase and would include a hike in tax on beer. She declined further comment on it, except to say that it would keep the Senate plan for temporary increases in the business and occupation tax but make permanent a higher B&O tax credit for smaller service businesses.

“Probably there’s a tax in there that everyone hates,” the Spokane Democrat said.

It would raise an estimated $800 million for the remainder of the biennium, which is important to Senate Democrats, who were resisting any drop in the tax revenue levels because that would require further cuts.

Getting rid of the sales tax increase has been important to House Democrats and Gregoire.

Brown said she is close to having the 25 votes she needs for the deal to pass the Senate. House vote counters reportedly are not sure they have the 50 votes they need for it to pass the House.

It’s not clear yet whether they would send the bill to a conference committee for a hearing, and anything that comes out of the committee must have a 24-hour wait “on the bar” before it could be voted on. Going that route means a straight up or down vote in each chamber, no chance for amendment. Or it could be amended onto the tax package that is in the House, which opens it up for amendment in the House before going to the Senate.

Brown called it a “true compromise”…if, in fact they’ve reached it.

As of 5:05 p.m., Gregoire, Chopp and Brown remained in a meeting in the governor’s office with a growing gaggle of reporters massing outside.


WA Lege SpecSess: Negotiations continue

OLYMPIA — Day 24 of the special session looks to be a fairly quiet one.

Most legislators remain at home, with a few negotiators for the House and Senate sending tax proposals back and forth. No votes, no floor sessions, no committee meetings.

And no deal at this point.

Although Senate Democrats proposed a tax on beer to raise some revenue for the general fund, House negotiators said this morning they have not signed off  on that idea. They may have something new this afternoon. And they may not.

Legislators may be called back on Friday for floor sessions, and work through the weekend.

If there’s a hard and fast proposal. If not, well, the session ends Tuesday, and Gov. Chris Gregoire has said she won’t call them back for another round.

And yes, Spin Control was unusually early in the week, taking a couple days off. Sorry for the light blogging.

WA Lege SpecSess: Enhanced 911 tax hike passes

OLYMPIA — Washington residents are likely to pay an extra 25 cents a month next year for every phone line they have, whether it’s a land line, a cell phone or an internet connected system.

The House of Representatives passed an increase Friday in phone taxes to pay for enhanced 911 equipment for the state and local agencies, following action taken Thursday by the Senate.
Enhanced 911 allows a dispatcher to see the caller’s number and location when a call comes in. The state already allows local systems to charge a 50 cent fee for every land line and cell phone to help pay for the enhanced system, and the state charges 20 cents. The proposal raises local fees to 70 cents, and the state fee to 25 cents.

House Republicans denounced the bill as another tax, even if it was for a good cause.

“Here we go again,” Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama said. “At some point you get to the point that breaks the camel’s back. This bill may not be the actual straw, but at what point do you get to it? It is a hardship on people who are struggling.”

Democrats countered that it was really a user fee, going up a quarter a month or $3 a year, to help with an explosion in technology, particularly in cell phones and computer based Voice Over Internet Protocol systems which currently do not pay the tax. Identifying and locating cell phones requires new equipment.

“It’s about technology neutrality,” Rep. Jeff Morris, D-Anacortes, said. “The 911 system has to work for the wireless phone as well as the landline.”

The bill now goes to Gov. Chris Gregoire. If she signs it, the taxes go into effect Jan. 1.

To see how Spokane area legislators voted, go inside the blog.

WA Lege SpecSess: Another week of this likely?

OLYMPIA — The House of Representatives returned today in force, if not quite en masse, to handle several bills and get an update on tax discussions with the Senate.

But they’re expecting to be sent home this afternoon, with no debate or vote on the state’s ailing budget, with orders to return next Friday. In the meantime, Speaker Frank Chopp, Majority Leader Lisa Brown and the two chambers’ Democratic revenue leaders will continue to seek agreement, or at least less disagreement, on a tax package that can get 25 votes in the Senate and 50 votes in the House.

The $200 million the Senate raises through a bump in the sales tax continues to be a sticking point, sources said, although it’s possible Senate leaders have come up with a way to cover about half of that through other means.

There is no “deal,” sources said. There is no firm proposal that could lead to a “deal.” There are some ideas that could become a proposal that could lead to a “deal.”

There’s is nothing the public can look at and say “Wow, what a great idea!” or “Are you out of your mind?”

A deal, of course, isn’t really a deal until it passes both chambers with a tacit understanding that Gov. Chris Gregoire is going to sign it.

Bringing them back next Friday could instill a sense of finality to everything. The final day of this 30-day session is Tuesday, so the clock will be ticking a little louder each day. No agreement by midnight Tuesday and they go home with no budget changes, which means Gregoire can only balance the budget through across-the-board cuts to programs not required by constitutional mandate or an agreement to accept federal funds.

Otter trying ‘personal touch’ in snare business

OLYMPIA – Idaho Gov. Butch Otter continues to “court” Washington businesses, sending personal letters to their owners that suggest they should move to the Gem State.
That’s fair, Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire said Thursday, because the Evergreen State makes similar overtures to businesses in other states, including Idaho. She called foul last month when Otter sent out a blanket “love letter” to businesses in the Washington and Oregon that derided the neighboring states for tax increases.
“It is not normal for governors to send a so-called love letter. Governors absolutely do contact businesses in other states,” Gregoire said.
Hitting Washington for tax increases was “a little premature”, she added, because the Legislature hasn’t settled on any yet.
But it’s about to, warned Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla…

‘Dry Fly’ bill becomes law

OLYMPIA – Small distilleries will be able to produce more liquor under a new law that triples their maximum capacity to 60,000 gallons.
The law, signed Thursday by Gov. Chris Gregoire, is a reflection of the fast growth of the Spokane’s “craft” distillery, Dry Fly, which was the first such operation in Washington since Prohibition when it was set up in 2007.
The original limit for craft distilleries of 20,000 gallons was essentially a guess, Dry Fly co-owner Don Poffenroth said Thursday. The Spokane operation is about three-fourths of the way to hitting that original limit and wants some room to expand, although it probably wouldn’t reach the new limit..
“I don’t think so, but I also never thought we’d grow this fast,” he said. But the higher limit is becoming a national standard, and the new law also allows distilleries to make liquor for a private customer from his or her own grain, without that counting against the 60,000 gallon limit.
At least four other craft distilleries have opened and several others have obtained permits, but Dry Fly remains the largest operation in Washington.
Gregoire paused before signing the bill, looked at its sponsor Sen. Chris Marr, D-Spokane, and asked: “Where are my samples?”
Replied Marr: “I tried to stop by a state liquor store and it wasn’t open at 10 in the morning.”
Even if the store had been open, he would not have been able to buy any of Dry Fly’s wheat whiskey, he added. That product is in such limited supply it usually sells out the day it’s released.

WA Lege SpecSess: No deal, Lucille

OLYMPIA — Reports of a “deal” between House and Senate Democratic leaders on the taxes and budget package appear to be greatly exaggerated.

The Senate was briefly in session today, passing a bill that allows a 25 cent tax to help fund Enhanced 911 service. Democrats had a caucus afterwards, but it was over quickly.

Senate sources say there’s been “movement” toward a deal, but no actual deal. Gov. Chris Gregoire echoed that during an impromptu press conference: Her information was that legislators “had discussions that shown progress…We do not have a deal.”

Unlike last week, when she used words like disappointed and disgusted, Gregoire was more upbeat: “I’m hopeful.” Asked what movement had taken place on which sticking points, she said she didn’t want to jinx anything. “It’s premature for me to say much more than this.”

WA Lege SpecSess: Senators called back

OLYMPIA — Senators are coming back today to do more than just open the session and go right into recess. Democrats have a caucus to discuss progress on talks to figure out a tax plan that solves the problem they’ve had for months:

Namely, that the Senate has enough votes to bump up the sales tax, but the House doesn’t. The House has enough votes to raise a handful of other taxes that raises about what a sales tax hike would, but the Senate doesn’t.

The fact that they are coming back for a briefing and a discussion could be seen as a hopeful sign of a deal in the offing. Could be — but not necessarily.

The governor, meanwhile will spend some time in Seattle explaining how the state plans to take part in national health care reform, then hurry back to Olympia to sign some bills into law.

And there’s a rally to mark  April 1 as an important day on the calendar…no, not April Fool’s Day. Census Day. This is the day your census forms are supposed to be filled out and mailed off, if you haven’t done that yet.

Don’t believe the commercials that tell you 10 questions in 10 minutes. Unless you have 15 people in  your house, it doesn’t take near that long to fill out your form..

WA Lege SpecSess: Pro Forma…it’s at least cheaper

OLYMPIA — Here’s the good news as the Special Session creeps through Day 17: things are waaaay cheaper when most of the honorables are out of town and back home.

The initial cost estimates for the Special Session were $18,300 a day, when all the expected staff time and the legislators’ $90 a day food and lodging allowance (known by that classy Latin moniker of per diem) were added up.

But then a bunch of legislators said they wouldn’t take no stinking per diem, and others said they wouldn’t take it on days that they weren’t doing anything. And then most of them got sent home on rolling recess, and when not in Olympia they aren’t taking it, either.

Then much of the session staff got laid off, and full-time legislative staff that splits its time between Olympia and the offices back in the district went home to unlock the doors and air out the work space back there.

Bottom line, these days when only a few legislative leaders are around trying to reach an agreement on taxes cost about $2,500 a day, according to folks in the House and Senate who have to keep track of these things.

That will go up some on Thursday if the Senate returns as planned to caucus on tax proposals. But nothing much is happening today, so this should be another low-cost day.

As for a cost-benefit analysis, it depends on your perspective. From a GOP standpoint, every day the Democrats don’t raise taxes is a good day, so paying less while not getting a tax hike would be a good thing, but just needing a special session is a bad thing.

From the Democratic perspective, the budget has to be fixed, and the sooner it’s done and everyone goes home, the better. If a deal is struck, the cost/benefit ratio on these cheapo days is huge; no deal means whatever the cost, there’s nothing to put in the benefit column.

WA Lege SpecSess: Senate back Thursday…for caucus

OLYMPIA — The Senate will hold more than a pro forma session Thursday, with members being called back so Democrats can get an update on tax negotiations.

Sources said this doesn’t necessarily mean they have a deal, or are within a frog’s hair of one. But there have been some changes discussed for the “menu” of taxes proposed by the governor and passed by the House, and this would be a chance to sound Senate Democrats out on those.

Republicans don’t really need to caucus. They aren’t part of negotiations and they aren’t going to vote for tax increases. Period.

WA Lege SpecSess: Stuck in a rut?

OLYMPIA — The familiar pattern of no apparent movement on the Legislature’s budget log jam is expected to continue today. The two houses have pro forma sessions, but most members aren’t here, so nothing of substance will be done.

Negotiations among House and Senate Democratic leaders are expected to continue over taxes, but until some agreement is reached, the other legislators will stay home. Some will issue press releases; Republicans are taking making statements about the waste of the special session.

Monday evening it was Sen. Janea Holmquist’s turn. The Moses Lake Republican said Democrats should be passing reforms to workers comp and creating jobs.  Read the whole press release by clicking here.

This week has Passover at the beginning, and Good Friday/Easter Vigil/Easter Sunday at the end. Unless an agreement is reached by midweek, it’s possible the legislators won’t be brought back to debate and vote on it until next week.

Gov. Chris Gregoire is signing bills late this morning in Bellevue, which means she won’t have to answer questions from the Olympia press corps about the apparent lack of progress in the special session.

WA Lege SpecSess: No end in sight, part 2

OLYMPIA — Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown and House Speaker Frank Chopp tried to make things look and sound as cordial as possible today, but they still lead two opposing views on figuring out a budget fix and getting the heck out of Dodge.

Of course, most of Legislature is temporarily out of Dodge. It’s not clear when they’re coming back. In “a few days” was the best estimate Brown could give.

They appeared together around noon, with Gov. Chris Gregoire, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell and some others cheering federal health care reform. Afterwards they talked with reporters about how discussions were coming on a fix to the projected $2.8 billion budget hole.

The sticking point is $200 million out of that $2.8 billion.

Senate Democrats have the needed 25 votes for a tax plan that raises about $200 mill with a sales tax. House Democrats don’t have the needed 50 votes for a tax plan with a sales tax, and have a menu of other taxes to get that money. Senate Democrats don’t have 25 votes for that package.

“We’re still working on what the final agreement will look like,” Brown said. She added Gregoire’s threat last week of having to cut 20 percent off everyone’s budget if the Legislature burns through the special session without a decision on cuts and taxes was just “a worst case scenario.”

Why not just cut another $200 million from the budget, Brown was asked. The budget has come down enough since last spring that she doesn’t consider that a viable solution, she said.

With so little news, reporters were trying to read body language for some clues as to  how things were going as the press conference on health care reform started. Brown and Chopp were far apart when they enterred the room and approached the podium, but stood next to each other when most of the other folks were talking. Chopp introduced Brown with a few kind words about her support for the state’s Basic Health Plan.

Brown stayed in the reporters’ scrum longer to answer questions. Chopp, who looked like he’d rather doing anything else, ducked out as quickly as possible.

WA Lege Spec Sess: No end in sight

OLYMPIA — The Legislature has nothing scheduled today except a pro forma session in the Senate at noon.

That’s also the time that U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, Gov. Chris Gregoire, state Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, and state House Speaker Frank Chopp have a press conference to say they think federal health care reform is a great thing. This comes two days after about 850 people gathered on the lawn to cheer Attorney General Rob McKenna’s participation in lawsuit against health care reform, because they think it is a terrible thing.

That lawsuit might come up, as well as the progress — or lack thereof — in the special session. Other than that, today’s biggest task might be to avoid being washed away by the rain.

Turning down the money spigot on local elections

OLYMPIA – With little fanfare last week, Gov. Chris Gregoire signed a bill that could force a big change in Spokane politics.
Senate Bill 6344 could cut the tendons of groups that have flexed the most muscle in recent city council and mayoral campaigns, the city employees’ unions and the builders, and keep anyone from trying to throw weight around in a county race for sheriff, prosecutor, clerk – although, truth be told, clerk races rarely draw the big bucks.
Starting June 10, no person, committee, business or union will be allowed to give a candidate more than $800 per election. In Washington state, that really means $1,600 in a campaign year if the candidate gets his or her hand out early, because the primary and the general count separately.
For most donors in most races, that’s more than they’re going to give, anyway. Give someone a grand and a half to run for city council? Isn’t that like a month’s pay for that job?
But a few people or groups have a tendency to give more — way more…

WA Lege SpeSess: GOP senators send fan mail to McKenna

OLYMPIA — Most of the country may keep in touch with e-mail and texting, but Attorney General Rob McKenna needs to  keep his letter opener handy for a while. He’s getting messages the old fashioned way, in letters..

His latest pen pals are the 16 Senate Republicans, who Thursday announced that they were sending a him nice letter to him for joining the lawsuit against the federal health care mandates. According to the recently issued press release, they told him:

“Our caucus has long sought to ensure all Washingtonians have access to high-quality, affordable health care while maintaining our commitments to the vulnerable, working poor and elderly. Over the years we have introduced legislation to accomplish this goal,” the letter stated. 
“We believe that the future of our government ‘of the people and by the people’ is in peril when any group sees fit to suspend the constitution and laws in service of their own agenda. …It is vital that our courts address these fundamental constitutional concerns prior to the full implementation of the legislation. We are convinced that a legally sound approach to health reform will be more successful and will better serve our fellow citizens over the long term.”

They also mentioned several pieces of legislation that various Republicans introduced to block federal health care reform mandates in Washington. None of the bills got a hearing or a vote, but they are on the books.

This press release comes just a few  hours after a pair of legislative Democrats, Sen. Karen Fraser and Rep. Eileen Cody, said pretty much the opposite, that federal health care reform is both constitutional and important for the state’s ability to maintain the Basic Health Plan, is constitutional, and should not be challenged by McKenna. They said they were sending  him a letter asking him to drop out of the case.

Earlier in the week, Senate Majority Leader LIsa Brown also sent him a letter with pretty much the same message.

WA Lege SpecSess: Cut McKenna’s budget? Not likely right now

OLYMPIA — Although some Democratic legislators have talked of cutting Attorney General Rob McKenna’s budget to keep him from joining the lawsuit against federal health care reform, right now it appears just that. Talk.

First, the Legislature has bigger budget issues to settle, such as how to raise taxes to come  up with about $800 million to throw into the $2.8 billion gap in the general operating fund budget.

Second, two legislators who are leaders on health care issues said they are “looking at all kinds of options”, which generally means they haven’t settled on any specific option like cutting the AG’s budget.

But Sen. Karen Keiser of Des Moines and Rep. Eileen Cody of Seattle aren’t doing nothing about McKenna’s decision to join with a dozen or so other states in challenging the constitutionality of the  new law. They are…

WA Lege SpecSess: Tax committee being formed

OLYMPIA — In an effort to break the logjam over which taxes to raise, the Legislature will appoint a conference committee with three members from each chamber to try to work things out.

The Senate rejected the House of Representatives’ rewrite of the tax package late this morning, and agreed to set up the committee. Senate Democrats named Margarita Prentice of Renton and Ed Murray of Seattle; Republicans named Joe Zarelli of Ridgefield.

House is out of session today, and may be tomorrow, so it’s possible the committee won’t meet until sometime next week.

The committee has public meetings to unveil any proposals, although much of the negotiations still take place in private. Whatever it agrees to must “sit on the bar” — be public — for 24 hours before a vote.

Four of the six members must agree, which means Democrats still have the upper hand in any agreement because they hold four seats. Minority Leader Mike Hewitt of Walla Walla said the process is really just for show, because they likely won’t have any input.

The divide between House Democrats and Senate Democrats will still have to be bridged.  Murray said the Senate doesn’t have 25 votes for the mix of tax increases in the House tax package, and the House doesn’t have 50 votes to raise the sales tax by two-tenths of 1 percent, like the Senate proposed.

WA Lege SpecSess: Kind of a half-day

OLYMPIA — Day 11 of the supposed Seven-Day Session breaks down like this:

The Senate returns this morning for some light work — start up, do some routine stuff, go to caucus, pass some “jobs bills — but the House of Representatives isn’t coming back until Friday.

That means there’s no sign of a compromise on tax legislation, which is the lynchpin to them going  home for good.

Gov. Chris Gregoire has her daily “bill signning” session this afternoon, at which the assembled press corps will ask her if she’s heard any news. Wednesday that resulted in a discussion of what would happen if they blow through Day 30 with no budget.

Answer: She’ll send them home for good and cut everyone’s budget by 20 percent. No telling if that will jump start anything a couple floors up in the Capitol Building.

WA Lege SpecSess: Rolling on a recess

OLYMPIA — Nothing expected today in the Lege. Most of the honorables are  home or anywhere but here while a few of their leaders try to find a compromise on what taxes to raise for the budget package.

They do have some work scheduled for tomorrow, but if there’s no deal on taxes, it might not take long.

Meanwhile, Gov. Chris Gregoire is announcing some judicial appointments to appeals courts this afternoon, including an appointment to Division III in Spokane.

WA Lege SpecSess: GAU changes pass, including name

OLYMPIA – The Legislature approved new limits to a major welfare program for those unable to work because of physical or mental health problems, and changed its name from General Assistance-Unemployable to the Disability Lifeline.

Under the new rules that passed both houses Monday, those unable to work will be limited to 24 months of benefits over a five-year period between 2008 and 2013. Those who are in the program because of a drug or alcohol addiction can only receive benefits if they enroll and stay in treatment; those who are homeless and need chemical dependency or mental health treatment will receive vouchers instead of cash, and will only qualify if they stay in treatment.

To read more, click here to go inside the blog.

WA Lege SpecSess: Who’ll blink on the sales tax?

OLYMPIA – A special legislative session to address the state’s budget problems will continue until one side or the other blinks on the sales tax.

On one side: A majority of Democrats who control the Senate want to increase the sales tax as part of their plan to raise about $800 million in taxes as a balanced plan to close a projected $2.8 billion budget gap.

On the other side: A majority of Democrats who control the House of Representatives, and Gov. Chris Gregoire, who want to raise that money with other taxes.

To read more tax talk, click here to go inside the blog

WA Lege SpecSess: Looking for an end game

OLYMPIA — The two competing factions in the Legislature (House Democrats and Senate Democrats) have staked out their territory on taxes.

While they try to negotiate a compromise, or until one side gives in to the other, the houses will be debating and voting on a few other things. Senate is taking up a proposed change to General Assistance Unemployable sometime today. House is expected to agree to changes in a housing act, but not to some rural county tax deferrals.

GOP making November plans

OLYMPIA – While Democrats with huge majorities in both houses fight among themselves over the budget, Republicans have plenty of free time to express confidence the November election will change the math.

Democrats seem intent on helping them out. They’re going to raise taxes, which ranks high on the list of things that get a politician removed from office. They may be right that they have almost no choice in the matter, but the way that they’ve gone about it – holding a quixotic hearing on an income tax, requiring repeated votes on bills tailor-made to wind up in GOP commercials, suspending rules – does little to mitigate the expected damage.

Then there’s the $18,300 per day special session – at least that was the cost before a rush to refuse legislative per diems – that was supposed to be done in seven days.

How’s that working, as Dr. Phil would say. Not so good, with work expected through Tuesday, which would be day nine.

WA Lege SpecSess: House debates, passes tax plan

OLYMPIA – Using a compromise plan suggested by the governor, House Democrats stripped an increased sales tax out of plans to balance the state budget and countered with higher business taxes.

Saturday afternoon they voted 53-42 to stake out different territory in their efforts to combine tax increases with program cuts and federal money to fill a $2.8 billion budget hole.

The proposal got no support from Republicans, who called it at various times a job killer, legalized plunder and a pathway to socialism. It lost several Democrats, too, including Rep. John Driscoll of Spokane.

But Democrats who supported the bill said it was necessary to leave class sizes small, cover health care for the poor, keep guards in the prisons and state troopers on the highway.
Much of the package was proposed by Gov. Chris Gregoire late Friday in an effort to strike a deal between two very different tax approaches in the House and Senate. The two bills now become the basis for negotiations expected to take place over the weekend.

The House bill passed Saturday:
• Places a three-year surcharge on the business and occupation tax levied on many service businesses, raising the tax to 1.75 percent, up from 1.5 percent of gross receipts.
• Applies the sales tax to bottled water, currently classified as food and exempt from that tax. That tax would take effect May 1, in an effort to raise more money.
• Levies taxes on out-of-state companies who do business in Washington. Some of the language reinstates taxes thrown out by court decisions.
• Taxes manufacturers of custom software.

Cut from the tax bill are:
• The two-tenths of 1 percent sales tax increase approved Friday by the Senate.
• A sales tax to candy and gum, which the House approved in an earlier tax bill. Taxes on elective cosmetic surgery, also in that early House plan, are gone.
• An end to the real estate excise tax exemption on foreclosed properties. The  House and Senate both voted to do away with that earlier this month
To read more about the tax bill, click here go inside the blog

WA Lege SpecSess: House tax plan dumps sales tax, hikes B&O

OLYMPIA — The House of Representatives is debating Saturday morning a new tax plan that does away with the sales tax hike approved by the Senate on Friday.

The debate is likely to be much the same. Republicans will say this will hurt the economy and cost jobs. Democrats will say it’s a balanced approach, with far more cuts in the budget than taxes raised.

Stay tuned.

WA Lege SpecSess: Senate approves tax hike

OLYMPIA — TheSenate approved temporary jumps in state sales and business taxes, narrowly passing a tax plan that may not survive the weekend in the House.

Senate Democrats made some changes in the plan they passed during the regular session which also was gutted in the House. Instead of a three-tenths of 1 percent increase in the sales tax for the next three years, they approved a two-tenths of 1 percent increase for that period.

They approved temporary increases to the business and occupation tax, but also increased the credit for small businesses with sales of less than $72,000.

They also amended the bill to give exemptions from the business tax increases to researchers, non-profit hospitals and realtors.

Democrats emphasized that the tax increase was the smallest part of their budget solution, which also includes federal funding and cuts of some $5 billion from the budget they would have carried forward from the last biennium.

Republicans argued those aren’t all real cuts, but reductions in anticipated increases, brought on by overspending in previous  years.

WA Lege SpecSess: Schedules uncertain

OLYMPIA — Both houses of the Legislature start at 10 a.m.,  plan to break fairly quickly for caucuses, then come back for votes on “bills necessary to implement the budget.”

Does that mean they, you know, have a budget?

Not necessarily. But the Senate may have a revenue bill — read tax plan — that they will vote on after lunch.

(Editor’s note: Previous notice from the Senate said they’d vote “after a dinner break.” That’s been changed.)

Gov. Chris Gregoire wants them done by Sunday. They’d have to work Saturday and Sunday to do that, but there’s no firm weekend schedule yet.

WA Lege SpecSess: Gregoire frustrated at slow pace

OLYMPIA – As the Legislature crawled through its fourth day of a special session without a solution to its budget problems, Gov. Chris Gregoire was among those expressing frustration with the progress, or apparent lack of it.

The session could be done by Sunday, which would be the absolute last day Gregoire said she wanted them to spend in this legislative overtime.

“I thought I was giving them a couple days extra time, just in case,” she said at a press conference called to tout the state’s growth in environmentally friendly or green jobs. “To talk about going another week, to me, is inexcusable.”

To read the rest of this story, or to see the list of legislators not taking a per diem during the special session,  go inside the blog.

WA Lege SpecSess: On paper, a slow day

OLYMPIA — The Legislature has another light day scheduled, with a 10 a.m. start for the House and a noon start for the Senate, with breaks for caucues coming shortly afterward.

The House Finance Committee holds a hearing this morning on a plan to give tax credits to small businesses that hire new employees and a few other bills; and an executive session on several other bills in the afternoon. House Ways and Means Committee has a late afternoon meeting on a couple of bills, including one to add a surcharge to auto insurance policies to fight car theft.

Maybe they’ll be revealing a compromise worked out between House and Senate Democrats to fill that $2.8 billion hole in the budget. And maybe not. There’s no solid evidence that such a compromise yet exists.

In other action, Gov. Chris Gregoire has a 1 p.m. event at the Port of Olympia to announce the latest study on “green” jobs. This is not to be confused with jobs created by all the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations on Wednesday. These are jobs that are somehow good for the environment.