OLYMPIA – After about 40 minutes of budget discussions with Gov. Jay Inslee and his budget chief Monday, legislative leaders emerged to declare they had made unspecified progress toward a two-year spending plan.
“A useful meeting,” said House Appropriations Chairman Ross Hunter, D-Medina.
“A good discussion,” said Senate Ways and Means Chairman Andy Hill, R-Redmond.
It was, however, only a starting point, they said, for discussions that will continue in the special legislative session that starts Wednesday.
A spokesman for Inslee said the governor also was optimistic about a “climate for compromise” after the meeting.
“The governor did not set any demands for this,” spokesman David Postman said. “That’s not productive.”
In a meeting with legislative leaders about two weeks ago, Inslee listed several things he wanted in any budget he would sign, such as $1.3 billion to meet court orders to adequately pay for public education, cost-of-living increases for teachers and raises in negotiated contracts with state employees. There was no similar set of requirements given legislators this time, Postman said.
The Legislature concluded its regular session Friday without an agreement between the Democratic House and the predominantly Republican majority in the Senate on an operating budget of about $38 billion for the 2015-17 fiscal period. They also have not agreed on a capital construction budget, spending plans for current transportation taxes and fees, as well as a new package of transportation projects and reforms that would be tied to an 11.7-cent hike in the gasoline tax.
By law the special session can last 30 days. Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler said Monday in a statement the operating budget should be settled by May 15 so school districts have adequate notice of the amount they will be receiving in the 2015-16 school year and can set their budgets accordingly before classes start late this summer.
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