More on House-Senate budget proposals. Reconcilable differences?

The Senate Ways & Means Committee has scheduled a vote this afternoon on the chair’s proposed supplemental budget. Then we expect early floor action in both the House and Senate, setting the stage for conference committee negotiations and, ideally, swift reconciliation and adjournment.

The proposals differ significantly on the need for new taxes and increased spending. Among the differences are funding for charter schools (in the Senate plan) and teacher pay increases (in the House plan). Overall, the House increases spending more than the Senate and relies on new taxes and tapping the rainy day fund, neither of which are options in the Senate proposal. The Washington Research Council has prepared a good comparison of the policy-level spending differences. Still, we believe the differences in the supplemental budget can be reconciled within the time left before the statutory end of the session March 10. 

Yet, there are impediments to timely resolution. Spokesman-Review reporter Jim Camden writes,

The spending plans, which make adjustments for the second half of the state’s two-year budget, are so different that the Legislature may need to go into overtime to reach a compromise.

As he writes, an overtime session would hardly be unusual.

If they don’t [agree in the next 14 days on a budget the governor would sign], they face the sixth year in the last seven that required a special session. 

Jason Mercier, with the Washington Policy Center, also comments on the challenge and summarizes key differences.

The vastly different approaches taken by the House and Senate in their supplemental budgets, however, does cause concern whether March 10 will be the final end date. The Senate plan takes a more traditional approach for a supplemental budget focusing on tweaks to the base 2015-17 budget while House budget writers believe now is the time to make major changes.

At the Capitol Record, Christina Salerno reviews some of the differences. Cutting through the various policy options, though, is this:

Senate Republicans say the primary difference between their proposal and the one by House Democrats is the level of spending.

More discussion in this Associated Press story and this from the Northwest News Network.