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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spin Control

Is Legislature any closer to a deal with more revenue?

OLYMPIA -- With some $400 million in extra tax money expected for the state's coffers, the Legislature should be able to break its logjam over the budget and reach a deal, Gov. Jay Inslee said today. 

"The new forecast should make things easier," Inslee said a day after economists upped their predictions for the state's tax take. "We need compromise."

Senate Republican leaders agreed the extra money should result in a budget deal. But the budget deal they envision is different than the one Inslee described.

Inslee said Senate Republicans, who are insisting on no new taxes, should be able to fill what he considers "major holes" in their budget, where they spend less than he recommended and House Democrats proposed on education, early learning, mental health programs and salaries for school employees and state workers. They'll still need some tax increases, he said, just not as many as he proposed in December.

Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, had a different take on the revenue forecast. Adding the $400 million forecast Monday to other projected increases earlier in the year, plus some unexpected federal money, some reductions in requests for state services and an expected boost from bringing medical marijuana under the state tax system, and budget writers are looking at an increase of more than $1 billion over what they started with in January, he said.

No new taxes are needed, he insisted: "We should spend the increase in revenue prudently and get this session done."

Inslee accused Senate Republicans of "being chintzy" on cost-of-living increases for teachers.  The Legislature is getting an 11 percent raise over the next two years, Senate Republicans are proposing 3 percent for teachers and other school employees. He also didn't support a bill proposed by members of the Senate's predominantly Republican majority, which would dock teachers pay and benefits if they go out on strike. The one-day "walkouts" are a sign of frustration by teachers, he said.

"I don't thing any of the legislators. . .ought to be lecturing teachers on hard work," he said. The 30-day special session is in its 21st day and "very little has been accomplished so far."

Schoesler accused Inslee of spreading a "COLA myth". Some teachers apparently believer the Senate Republican budget has no raises for teachers, when in fact it does. The raises proposed by Inslee and House Democrats are larger, he said, but don't create as much problem for solving a problem of unequal school levies across the state, Sen. Joe Fain, Republican floor leader, added.

"Every teacher in the state has received some increase since 2008 -- just not from the state," Fain said.

Legislators didn't give themselves a raise, Schoesler said. That was set by an independent citizens commission.

Both sides agreed the Legislature could reach a budget agreement and be done by May 28, the last scheduled day of the special session. But neither side sounded very optimistic that would happen. If it doesn't Inslee said he would call a second special session to start the day after the first special session ended.

Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981 and retired in 2021. He is currently the political and state government correspondent covering Washington state.

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