Crosscut examines why there’s likely to be no special legislative session to fix budget until after November election… if then.

We’ve written quite a bit about the consequences of delaying action to mitigate the state’s budget shortfall. In recent weeks, there have been increasing calls for the governor to call a special session of the Legislature to act. 

Reporting for Crosscut, Melissa Santos writes of the reasons those calls are likely to go unheeded in Olympia. A number of factors are in play: budget writers continue to hope for another infusion of federal cash; cutting services or raising taxes are both tough votes before an election; and, there’s little agreement on what the proper course of action might be.

Santos writes,

Leaders say the earliest they would hold a emergency session at this point would most likely be after the November election, if they convene at all. It’s quite possible legislators won’t meet again until January, when their regular 105-day session is scheduled to begin. 

What happened? Mainly, Democrats, who control both chambers of the Legislature, have been hoping they’ll receive some good news sometime soon — the kind that could make the state’s budget crisis a little less dire, and perhaps spare some state programs from cuts.

Congress didn’t act in the summer and may not provide any assistance before November. So,

The impasse in Congress effectively stamped out the possibility that Washington’s Legislature would meet this summer to work on budget solutions, said Andy Billig, D-Spokane, the state Senate’s majority leader. Billig had previously suggested that a special session in August might make sense, but he now thinks November is more likely, if the Legislature is to hold a special session this year.

Then there’s the election.

One Democratic senator was blunt last month in saying many of his colleagues don’t want to vote on new tax measures before the Nov. 3 general election.

“People are coming to the conclusion that they want revenue to be a part of the budget solution, but that’s not very likely to happen before the election,” said state Sen. Jamie Pedersen, a Seattle Democrat who chairs the Senate Democrats’ campaign committee…

It’s also possible that proposals to increase taxes on wealthy individuals and corporations could be easier to pass in January, if voters elect new Democratic legislators who favor those policies, Pedersen said.


Even if Democrats did want to solve their budget problem by making cuts, as Republicans have suggested, it’s not clear they have the votes in the House and Senate to do that, either, said David Schumacher, the budget director for Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee.

“People told me they didn’t have the votes to do cuts and they didn’t have the votes to do revenue. That’s what I heard,” Schumacher said. “The elections, I am sure, are one thing that played in their heads, in terms of what kind of budget they want to do.”

Much more in the story, which we recommend reading.

Bottom line: There’s no easy resolution to a multi-billion dollar budget problem. But there’s also the harsh reality of the math. Delay, however, just makes the problem harder to solve.