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WA Lege SpecSess: Data center tax breaks pass House

OLYMPIA — A bill to offer tax breaks for the construction and outfitting of data centers in rural counties passed the House Tuesday, a day after it passed the Senate.

Amendments to allow the tax breaks to be extended to other areas of the state, such as Pierce County, were turned down, and the bill passed 91-2.

WA Lege SpecSess: More saying no to per diem

OLYMPIA — A growing number of legislators say they will refuse the $90 per day they can receive for food and lodging during all or part of the special session.

Twenty-one senators, out of the total of 49, have notified the secretary of the Senate they won’t be accepting their per diem. In the House of Representatives, 26 members have said they’ll turn it down for the full session and 23 are refusing it for one or more days.

That lowers the daily cost of the special session from $18,300 to at least $14,000. Mondays are going to be the cheapest day, about $12,700, because so many reps are refusing the per diem that day.

To be fair to legislators, their per diem is less than what state workers travelling to Olympia would receive to stay there. The state employees’ per diem is base on a federal formula that rates different areas based on cost of living, and amounts to $150 per day.

(That’s about the same a state worker from Olympia would get for a trip to Spokane. But the rest of the East Side is a better deal, with a maximum per day of $116.)

Full list for the two chambers is inside the blog. Click here to see it. 

WA Lege SpecSess: GOP leaders wait, fume

OLYMPIA — Republican leaders of both house in the Legislature showed clear frustration with the pace — or lack of it — thus far in the special session.

A few minutes after the state Senate recessed for the day, GOP leaders in the House and Senate held their weekly “sit down” with the news media to insist they were being shut out of the process of writing a budget and tax plan. Democrats who control both houses and the governor’s office are in charge, and aren’t telling them nothing, they said.

That’s no surprise, they said. But they apparently aren’t telling each other very much, either, and there’s no reliable schedule that anyone can look at to see what or when something might happen.

“We’ ve been here 60 days and we haven’t been involved in the budget yet,” Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, said. “But you would think they’d talk to each other.”

Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, pointed ot a schedule for today’s Ways and Means Committee that lists a series of bills that might be heard, if they are referred to the committee. “Either you’re going to do these things or  you’re not,” he said.

They’re clearly hoping that whatever combination of tax increases and program cuts comes out of the special session will give them a big boost in the November elections. “I promise we will not operate like this,” Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla said.

So if they do take over in 2011, are they promising right now to repeal any taxes imposed this year?

“Probably not,” Hewitt said. “We’d have to look at the budget and see where we’re at.”

They also sought to answer a challenge from Gov. Chris Gregoire, issued last Thursday evening when she called for a special session amid criticism from Republicans that Democrats had wasted the regular session and were forced into “costly and embarassing” overtime. Gregoire challenged them to show a state that has done a better job.

On Wednesday, the GOP thought they had the state…

 

WA Lege SpecSess: Another day, another…not quite sure what

OLYMPIA—The Special Session goes into Day 3 with floor, with more than the  usual amount of green shirts, blouses and ties on display, and some very bad attempts at an Irish brogue. Some St. Patrick’s Day banter is being mixed in with fairly routine morning business, but more serious debate and votes are expected in the afternoon.

There’s a Senate Ways and Means Committee hearing at 12:30 p.m. Last night the tentative schedule included possibe hearings on a tax on home and community based services, making certain school and local government mandages optional and changes to the higher education loan program

It might also vote on whether to send about bills on healt savings accounts, eleimnate certain boards and commissions, forest fire prevention.

WA Lege SpecSess: More “no’s” to per diem

OLYMPIA — Legislators continue to say “no, thanks” to the $90 per diem they can receive for the special session.

Among those who aren’t taking it are:

Rep. Kevin Parker, R-Spokane
Sen. Tracey Eide, D-Des Moines
Sen Paull Shin, D-Mukilteo
Sen. Randy Gordon, D-Bellevue

Add them to the names reported earlier here.

 

WA Lege Spec Sess: Say what?

OLYMPIA — Debate sometimes gets so heated in the Legislature that the honorables mix their metaphors or jumble their allusions.

Today’s House debate on the Democrats’ “Jobs” bill, which asks for $861 million in bonds to do energy refits in schools around the state, was one of those times.

Rep. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor, warned about the mounting debt, and taking on even more, particulary when the state faces growing health care and pension costs. “Mr. Speaker, the cash register is ticking.”

Clocks tick. Bombs tick. But seems like even in the days of manually cranked cash registers, they didn’t tick, although they sometimes when ka-chunk, and sometimes went ka-ching.

Rep. David Taylor, R-Oak Harbor, tried a topical literary and cinematic allusion, although he prefaced it by saying he didn’t get around to seeing “Alice In Wonderland” on his weekend away from the Legislature. The bond bill was putting money, Wonderland-like, down a bunny  hole, he said.

“This may be the bunny hole of doom,” he warned.

Bunny hole of doom? Go ask Alice. Don’t eat the pills, stay away from the Mad Hatter but remember what the doormouse said.

WA Lege SpecSess: Day 2 report

OLYMPIA – Legislators retraced some of their steps Tuesday from the regular session, re-approving some bills that one chamber supported but the other didn’t before time ran out last week
The House passed an $861 million bond measure to retrofit public schools and make them more energy efficient. Democrats said the bill would provide 38,000 jobs, and save the schools money on their utility bills; Republicans said it was an example of the state spending what it doesn’t have, borrowing money to pay for temporary construction jobs.
Rep. Kevin Parker, R-Spokane, said the state will take money from taxpayers, which will hurt jobs: “The people have reached deep down into their pockets and there’s no more to give.”
But Rep. Timm Ormsby, R-Spokane, argued government spending does have a role in helping the local economy. “We’re talking about smart government investment,” he said, like federal polices of the New Deal in the 1930s and the interstate highway construction under President Eisenhower.
It passed 54-39 (click here go inside the blog to see the Spokane area votes) and was sent back to the Senate. If the bill passes, voters would have to approve the bonds in November by agreeing to raise the state’s debt limit.
The Senate passed a bill that tells state agencies to find a certain level of savings or send workers home without pay for 10 days over the next 15 months. There are some exceptions for low-paid staffers, and the number of furlough days has dropped from the initial proposal in January, which called for 16 furlough days, or one a month from this month through June 2011.
The Senate also approved tax exemptions for data centers in rural areas, giving strong support to a bill that didn’t pass before time ran out last week. The bill would forgive the taxes on construction and equipment for large data centers built between next month and July 2011, and is designed to draw the facilities to the Wenatchee-Quincy areas, boost construction in those areas temporarily and create long-term jobs that pay at least 150 percent of the county’s per capita income.
Sen. Jim Kastama, D-Puyallup, argued the tax exemptions should be available in any county with high unemployment, including Pierce County where a data center project is underway but could be stopped if it has to compete with facilities in rural counties that get an exemption. The Senate turned down Kastama’s amendment on a voice vote before approving the rural county exemption 39-4.

WA Lege SpecSess: Passing the “Jobs” Bill. Again

OLYMPIA — The House of Representatives resurrected a bill — and the arguments for and against — to sell state bonds to pay for energy updates at school.It was one of the earliest bills to pass the House during the regular session, but stalled in the Senate.

It passed 54-39, and heads back to the Senate.

WA Lege SpecSess: Running with the bills

OLYMPIA— Both the Senate and House start up around 10 a.m., with some housekeeping stuff, some caucusing and then plans to “run bills.”

Which is to say vote on them and likely pass them. Because everything “rebooted” for the special session, each house will have to pass bills that it previously passed but the other chamber did not pass.

That allows those bills to head back to the second house where work to amend or replace them can pick up where it left off last week.

Go inside the blog for the morning list of bills the House plans to take up today. Senate list should be forthcoming

Note: the list is tentative, and subject to change on short (or next to no) notice.

WA Lege SpecSess: Rebooting budget bill

OLYMPIA – The Legislature picked up Monday where it left off Thursday trying close estimated $2.8 billion hole in the state’s operating budget.
Legislative leaders said they were closer to agreeing how much to cut and spend, and how much to raise in taxes, but didn’t release figures. Everything is subject to ongoing negotiations, they said, and still must find approval with at least a bare majority of the Democrats who control each chamber.
Gov. Chris Gregoire said she remains opposed to an increase in the sales tax, which is part of the Senate’s tax increase plan, and is pushing what she calls “targeted revenue”, a series of smaller increases on other taxes, to raise money.
“I spent most of my day working on a jobs package, but I’ll be contacting Lisa and Frank before the day is out on revenue,” Gregoire said, referring to Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, and House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle.

WA Lege SpecSess: Just saying No to the per diem

OLYMPIA — The list of senators refusing their $90 per diem for the special session right now stands at 15 — 12 Republicans and 3 Democrats.

Alphabetically, they are:

Randi Becker, R-Eatonville
Don Benton, R-Vancouver
Mike Carrell, R-Lakewood
Karen Fraser, D-Olympia
Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla
Janea Holmquist, R-Moses Lake
Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside
Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor
Curtis King, R-Yakima
Chris Marr, D-Spokane
Bob McCaslin, R-Spokane Valley
Bob Morton, R-Kettle Falls
Linda Evans Parlette, R-Wenatchee
Val Stevens, R-Arlington
Joe Zarelli, R-Ridgeview

Fraser, it should be noted, never takes per diem, regular or special session.

 

WA Lege SpecSess: Into caucus

OLYMPIA — Senators have been called into a caucus, where Democratic members at least will hear of discussions that took place over the weekend and talk about plans to re-introduce several “jobs” bills — proposals designed to boost the economy.

Among the jobs bills is an exemption for certain data centers.

Negotiators were busy over the weekend, Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, said before going into the caucus, and the two houses “exchanged paper” and got closer on the amount of taxes they believe they’ll have to raise to balance the budget.

“They’ve gone up a little on their revenue; we’ve gone down a little,” Murray said.

 Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, said there has been movement, but no agreement. “We’ll have to get together in a room with the governor and work things out.”

The plan is for the Senate to pass its budget bill from the regular session, send it to the House, where majority Democrats will drop their proposal on top of it, thus creating a vehicle for discussion.

 

WA Lege SpecSess: They’re baaaack

OLYMPIA — The Legislature trundled into its special session at noon with a “pro forma” agenda. For the opening roll call in the Senate, there were just 10 senators on the floor when the call started, although 16 had shown up by the time the roster reading was done.

They’re running process resolutions, which set the time limits for introducing and reviewing bills, and suspending some of those requirements. Ordinarily, a minority party would object, but Republicans aren’t this time, in the interests of getting stuff done as quickly as possible.

“We don’t plan to be obstructionists,” Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, said. “Many of us have taken ourselves off per diem.”

Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, said there’d be plenty of time to review legislation.

During the regular session, some of the requirements for review and scheduling seemed to be honoried in their breach, anyway, with “ghost” bills being used to introduce major legislation, and an income tax proposal popping up in a hearing before anyone had a chance to read it.

WA Lege SpecSess: Here we go again

OLYMPIA — The Legislature cranks back up at noon today in an effort to pass a supplemental budget. Most of the honorables were given the weekend off, which meant many of them blew town, but some budget negotiators and leaders hung around.

Gov. Chris Gregoire called them into session for seven days, but they’re not bound by that. Technically, a special session can last as many as 30 days, and since the Legislature is a separate, co-equal branch of government, it can hang around for a whole month if it wants.

Estimated cost per day is about $18,300 if all legislators take their $90 per diem. Republicans suggested a bill late last week that would have stripped the per diem for everyone; Democrats countered that the bill was introduced so late that it couldn’t be considered, but everyone was free to reject the per diem voluntarily, if they want.

Democratic Sens. Chris Marr and Derek Kilmer have said they won’t be taking the per diem. Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla said that many GOP members were also foregoing theirs.

No special events or groups are scheduled for the Capitol today…apparently no one thought there’d be any legislators around to cajole.

WA Lege: Overlooked in the rush to adjourn

OLYMPIA – When the Legislature clattered to a close on Thursday, so much attention was being paid to the budget left undone over the previous 60 days that there wasn’t much left to consider what was done.
Talking on your cell phone while driving might get you ticketed, all on its own. The Legislature made it a primary offense, but Gov. Chris Gregoire said she has to read the bill to decide whether to sign it.
A getting a prescription for medical marijuana might become easier, although finding a legal way to fill it won’t necessarily. Legislators expanded the list of people who can recommend pot to treat a medical condition, but stubbed out a proposal to legalize it, tax it and sell it at state liquor stores.
Fewer committees, boards and commissions will be giving advice to state officials. A bill to do away with such things as the State Board on Geographic Names, Migratory Waterfowl Art Committee, K-20 Network Technical Steering Committee, Community Transition Coordination Networks Advisory Committee, Interagency Integrated Pest Management Coordinating Committee, Olympic Natural Resources Center Policy Advisory Board, Strategic Health Care Planning Office Technical Advisory Committee…there are 49, but you get the picture. Gregoire’s been after legislators to streamline government, odds are she’ll sign this.
Voters will get a chance to let judges keep more people accused of really dangerous crimes in jail without bail. A constitutional amendment on that will be on November ballot.
Patients in state mental hospitals because they were found not guilty by reason of insanity probably won’t be going on many field trips. That bill moved back and forth as the two houses tweaked the wording, but got sent to Gregoire on Wednesday. On Friday she signed a bill requiring the hospital to send out word when one of those patients escapes.
The crush of legislation also meant that some things that got mentioned early in the session faded away before the end. For example, motorcyclists aren’t put on the same level as minorities when it comes to profiling by police. Bikers got a committee hearing and a sympathetic ear in the House, but the Senate pretty much ignored the whole issue. A proposal to ban phosphorus in lawn fertilizer passed the Senate, but stalled and died in the House. All the “state sovereignty” bills were essentially bottled up in House committees and never got a hearing, let alone a vote.

WA Lege: The sequel

OLYMPIA — It is traditional at the end of a session to pick winners and losers. But with a special session starting Monday, that list seems premature. It seems better, then, to end with a question bandied about Thursday night, between the time the regular session was gaveled to a close and Gregoire issued her call for a special session: What is the right sports metaphor to use for this next legislative phase?
Overtime works on a self-explanatory level. But football and hockey overtimes have a “sudden death” factor, and Democrats can’t get a “W” just by passing one bill. Unlike a basketball OT, they won’t be done when time runs out if they get some and not all the tax and spending bills done.
Extra innings has an appropriate “this could go on forever if someone doesn’t figure out a way to score” feeling. But again, it suggests that a single run, whether an over the fence homer or some combination of a bunt, a walk, a hit batter and a wild pitch could end it all.
Stoppage time, which in soccer extends a game to account for time lost to injuries, and is solely at the discretion of the referee, may be an option. That makes Gregoire as the referee, which seems appropriate, but most Americans have a terrible time with soccer rules.
Maybe we should toss sports metaphors and go with something more 21st Century. Since this isn’t a completely new session, but a chance to create a better version of the one we had, let’s borrow from tech jargon.
Coming next: Session 2.0.

WA Lege Day 60: WA Lege session 2.0 starts Monday

OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire is calling the Legislature back into session starting noon Monday to solve the state’s projected $2.8 billion budget shortfall and telling them to do it in seven days.

Democratic leaders say ageement, and budget negotiators from both  houses will work over the weekend in an effort to get numbers at least a simple majority in each chamber can support.

“We know we still have our big task of balancing the budget. We’re not that far apart,” Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, said at the press conference with Gregoire and House Speaker Frank Chopp to announce the special session.

“We’re very close to reaching certain agreements,” Chopp said.

Although technically a special session called by the governor can last 30 days and cover any topic legislators want, Gregoire said she had an agreement from the leaders of both parties in both houses that this special session will be about the budget and a jobs program, and will aim at getting out in seven days.

And if they can’t get done in seven days? “We’re going to get done,” she insisted.

As to criticism from Republicans that a special session was a “embarassing and costly” and a result of disorganization on the part of Democrats who control both chambers by wide margins, Chopp replied the Legislature has managed to avoid overtime special sessions in seven of the last eight years. Even when the sesssion ends on time “they basically always say negative things.”

Gregoire, too, defended the work that was done last year and this year in the face of a slumping economy and multi-billion dollar shortfalls. Last year, 22 states needed special sessions, but Washington avoided one.

“We haven’t shut down government, we haven’t sent out IOUs,” she said. “To my friends on the other side of the aisle, explain how any state has done better than us.”

WA Lege Day 60: That’s all, for now

OLYMPIA — The Legislature voted to adjourn the regular session “sine die” which is fancy Latin for “That’s all folks.” Not sure what the Latin is for “for the time being, anyway.”

Lt. Gov. Brad Owen just brought the gavel down in the Senate and the officials in the House did the same in tshe House of Representatives. Each house watched the other on TVW images projected on the front and back walls.

Because before doing that, both houses passed a resolution calling for a special session to handle budget problems, and had one last set of votes on education, with the Senate passing the “Race to The Top” bill on school reforms just sent over from the House of Representatives. The House, in turn, passed the public school funding bill sent over from the Senate (see below).

They expect to be back as a group Monday, but leadership is supposed to work through the weekend trying to figure out a budget compromise.

Legislators who had been been exchanging verbal blows for the last 60 days shook hands and chatted amiably on the floor of the Senate. They invited friends, family and staff onto the floor to cheer the ending.

But camaraderie has its limits. The Republican caucus issued a press release saying the need for a special session is “costly and embarassing” for Democrats.

“They control every aspect of state government but still couldn’t reach agreement among themselves and with the special interests that pull so many of the strings in Olympia,” Republicans said in a press release sent out under Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla..

Gov. Chris Gregoire is expected to make the official call for a special session sometime Thursday evening.

 

WA Lege Day 60: Nearing closure

OLYMPIA — The two warring factions in the Legislature, the House and the Senate, have reached agreement on one of the sticking points, education reform.

The Senate just passed HB2776, a bill on K-12 funding, which essentially puts off until next biennium the heavy lifting on funding. In return, the House is expected to pass soon HB 6696 a bill that is designed to help with reforms that will allow the state a better chance of competing for “Race To The Top” money being offered by the federal government.

Shortly after that, we can expect an announcement by Gov. Chris Gregoire and legislative leaders on the special session to deal with the budget.


 

WA Lege Day 60: McCaslin out of surgery

OLYMPIA — Sen. Bob McCaslin is out of surgery for a heart bypass and valve replacement, the Senate was just told.

Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside, asked for a “point of personal privilege” to read an e-mail that said McCaslin came through surgery well and is expected to be out of intensive care in 24 hours.

WA Lege Day 60: An end and a beginning

OLYMPIA — On the calendar, this is the last day of the session. It will also be the day that a special session is called, most likely by Gov. Chris Gregoire.

The regular session is expected to close late today, after all the work that can be finished, is. Unfinished will be a supplemental budget that finds some combination of cuts, tax increases, federal funds and transfers to close the projected $2.8 billion shortfall.

The flag of Ireland is flying at the Capitol because the mayor of Galway, which is Seattle’s Sister City, is visiting.

And speaking of flags and mayors, the first thing the Senate did this morning was honor the town of Fairfield for its 100 years of celebrating Flag Day. About two dozen current and former residents of the south Spokane County town, including Mayor Ed Huber were in the gallery  for the reading of the resolution. a speech by Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, and a salute by the whole Senate.

WA Lege Day 59: Brother can you spare a per diem?

OLYMPIA — Senate Republicans and Democrats traded jabs over one of the costs of the upcoming special session, the $90 per diem legislators get to help cover the cost of food and lodging when away from home.

Republicans crafted a Senate bill Wednesday that would remove the per diem for all legislators during the special session. Their leaders castigated Democrats for being so disorganized that the Legislature needs extra innings to get the budget worked out.

“A special session this year is a costly and embarrassing prospect, and if the majority has any regard for taxpayers it should do everything in its power to bring the cost down,” Sen. Joe Zarelli, R-Ridgeview said.

 Democrats countered that this is a bit of unconstitutional grandstanding. New bills can’t be introduced in the last 10 days of the session without a two-thirds approval of both houses. Zarelli said Democrats have been ignoring other rules throughout the session.

Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, said, legislators don’t need a new law to refuse their per diem. They can do that voluntarily, like Sen. Karen Fraser, who lives in Olympia and regularly refuses hers.

“Those who feel the per diem is unnecessary simply need not collect it,” Brown said.

Sen. Chris Marr, D-Spokane, said he’d already decided to refuse his, but it would be a hardship for some legislators from Eastern Washington so it should remain voluntary.

Immunity for addicts seeking overdose help

OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire on Wednesday signed into law a measure that makes Washington the second state in the nation to have a law granting some legal immunity to people who call to report a drug overdose.

The measure, passed by the Legislature last month, takes effect in June. New Mexico has had a similar law since 2007.

Under the measure, people who seek help for someone suffering a drug overdose would not face prosecution for possession of drugs, but the person could still be charged with the manufacturing or sale of drugs. The measure also exempts the person suffering the overdose from prosecution, and anyone for whom the evidence is gained only because medical assistance was called.

“We’re going to save lives,” Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, told Senate sponsor, Sen. Rosa Franklin, D-Tacoma, after the bill signing.

WA Lege: Resolution honors Wood

OLYMPIA — Rep. Alex Wood of Spokane got a pre adjournment send off this week, with a resolution in the House honoring him for his seven terms there.

Honoring outgoing members is a tradition, of course, but it’s also one of the few things that all members agree on at this point in the session. The resolution was sponsored by his central Spokane district seatmate, Timm Ormsby, and signed on by all members of both parties.

The resolution notes Wood was a Vietnam vet and former radio reporter — which may be a reason it says he has “the best speaking voice in this legislative body”  — lists his work on various committees he sat on during his 14 years and work on the Problem Gambling Program.

It also says he’s  unusual in one other respect as “an avid reader who greatly enjoys the feel of paper in his hands and, thus, makes it a point to read the actual newspaper instead of an online version, and still uses the library to check out books, the old-fashioned way.”

WA Lege Day 59: Staffers laud Ormsby

OLYMPIA — The end of the session — or what was scheduled to be the end — is a time when various “legislator of the year” awards are announced. But one that seems to have some currency in the halls of the Capitol went to Rep. Timm Ormsby.

Ormsby of Spokane was named to that honor by the House Democratic staff, making him the first Spokane area legislator to get the award.

It’s such a big deal that his name goes on a placque in the Democratic caucus room. But it is a big deal among staff, one source said.

The deal is that only the Democratic legislative aides get a vote. And they can’t vote for their own boss (otherwise we’d be looking at something like a 61-way tie.)

Staffers aren’t even supposed to lobby for their own boss, the source said. Ormsby won this year because he’s recognized as someone who generally cares about  his staff, doesn’t waste people’s time, and takes on the hard fights.

The source spoke on condition of not being identified. But no, it’s not one of Ormsby’s staff. (Stop being so cynical.)

WA Lege Day 59: Special session likely

OLYMPIA — A special session is being discussed as a foregone conclusion today, and Republican leaders are blaming disorganization by the Democrats as the key reason.

While Democratic leaders are trying to find common ground in the different tax packages approveld by the House and Senate, GOP leaders were more caustic than usual in their weekly session with reporters.

“This is sthe most chaotic session I’ve ever seen,” Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla said. “I hope I never see another one.”

Added House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis: “They seem to not know what’s going on.”

Republicans pointed to a series of time-eating decisions or miscues by Democrats that contributed to the Legislature being on the brink of going into extra innnings.

WA Lege Day 59: Tick, tick, tick

OLYMPIA — Two days left in the session, and there are still some significant differences to resolve over budget, and a policy issue or two.

Gov. Chris Gregoire signaled Tuesday that she’s bracing for a special session, saying it’s more important to get things done right than get them done by deadline. “We’ll face that on Thursday.”

Speaker Frank Chopp said it is possible to get things done by midnight Thursday, but didn’t rule out a special session, either. He declined to give odds.

Lobbyists who circle the hallways around the rotunda, the parapets of the battle, are bracing for an extra session.

Smart money, however, is on the over, rather than the under, if you know what we mean. Here’s why: As Gregoire said, the two houses must get a majority to agree to three things in the budget. How much they will spend (and on what); how much extra they will raise (and from what taxes); and how much they leave in an ending fund balance, which is what provides some cushion against things coming off worse economicalllyi than the experts now expect (Gee, do you think that could ever happen.) And when they agree to it, she  has to sign off on it.

Thus we have the math of 25, 50 and 1. The minimum majorities in the Senate and House, and  gubernatorial approval. There may be a lot of references to those three numbers in the next 38 hours.

Both houses have sessions scheduled throughout the day and into the evening. The press corps is girding for a couple of long nights, but then, we eat this stuff up.

For a brief discussion on how special sessions can be called, go inside the blog.

Gregoire to Otter: Don’t be talking trash to my business

OLYMPIA – Gov. Chris Gregoire jabbed back at her Idaho counterpart Tuesday over whose state is better from business.
Washington’s got a better rating in Forbes Magazine for being business friendly and doesn’t have a personal or corporate income tax, she said during a press conference.
Idaho Gov. Butch Otter began this exercise in gubernatorial smack talk Monday, posting a “love letter” to businesses in Washington and Oregon. He invited them to move to his state to avoid taxes that voters raised in the latter and the Legislature is likely to raise in the former.
Both houses have passed bills raising taxes and dropping some incentives for businesses, although the two proposals have vast differences in the types of taxes, and significant disagreement on the amount to raise. This may cause them to miss Thursday’s deadline for ending the short session.
Idaho has a nice, stable tax system, he wrote: “Predictable tax and regulatory policies are what our employers need in order to maintain their operations through this rough patch.”
Gregoire’s rejoinder: “We’re second best in Forbes, they went from seventh to eleventh.”And while she professed to not being an expert on Idaho, she was pretty sure they had taxes which Washington doesn’t have, such as the corporate profits tax and a graduated income tax.
She didn’t mention of one tax Washington has but Idaho doesn’t, the business and occupation tax on gross receipts.
She said she hadn’t talked to Otter about his letter. “I have a call in to him today.”
Trying to recruit businesses from another state is “fair game,” but suggesting there’s a massive tax increase going on in Washington is not, Gregoire said.
Clearly, gubernatorial smack talk is not as fun as say, WWF smack talk. Go inside the blog to see how they might want to ramp up the volume.

WA Lege Day 58: ‘Dry Fly’ bill headed to gov

OLYMPIA — A bill that would allow craft distilleries like Spokane’s Dry Fly Distillery to grow as much as three times larger moved through the Senate this morning on final passage.

The bill allows the small liquor makers that have started to spring up around the state in the last two years to make up to 60,000 gallons a year. Dry Fly, the first distillery set up under the law, has reached the law’s current capacity limit and is looking to expand. It has sold out several batches of its wheat whiskey in a few hours.

“We have the opportunity on this Thuisday to toast sine die — hopefully — with perhaps products from Dry Fly” or some of the other distilleries, Sen. Chris Marr, D-Spokane, the sponsor of the bill, said.

While there may be some who doubt sine die, the end of the session will actually occur on Thursday, Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Hoodsport, had another caveat: “If he’s going to toasting anything in the Legislative Building, He better get a special $10 permit from the Liquor Control Board.”

Bill goes to the governor for her signature.

WA Lege Day 58: Counting down to…special session?

OLYMPIA — Three days remain for the Legislature to finish work on a budget, and pass it.

The House of Representatives passed a tax package late Monday night, but while it has the same number as the bill the Senate passed Sunday, SB 6143, it is not the same bill. Not even close. They’ve got a lot of heavy lifting to do.

The number of people who say confidently the Lege will be done on time is getting smaller and smaller.

Action happened after the newspaper’s deadline, so the story by the AP’s Curt Woodward is inside the blog. Click here to read

Voting yes on the package among Spokane legislators were Reps. Timm Ormsby and Alex Wood, Democrats in central Spokane’s 3rd District. Voting no was, well, everyone else in the region.

Along with budget work, both houses will be trying to pass bills on other topics that they’ve hammered out agreements.

Gov. Chris Gregoire has a press conference at 10 a.m.