Progress reported: Negotiators approaching agreement on the size of the budget box

According to the Seattle Times, budget negotiators are close to agreeing on “the size of the box,” how much money the state will spend in the next biennium.

Now, after daily meetings this week hosted by the governor during thesecond special legislative session, Democrats and Republicans are close to a compromise on that number, according to David Schumacher, director of the state Office of Financial Management.

“They got really close to the same number,” Schumacher said after Thursday morning’s budget meeting.

Close, but still no cigar. And, as the Times reports, once they agree on the number, there will be several days of negotiating the details. And, of course, there’s still the matter of whether the deal will require a tax increase. Legislators aren’t revealing much publicly.

Reporters trying to glean information about the closed-door sessions resort to a form of Kremlinology: Who’s standing next to whom in the official photo, who is invited to what meeting, even how many meetings are being held and where. Take this report from Jim Camden in the Spokesman-Review, for example.

Signs of progress in the ongoing budget talks as the second special session have been pretty hard to find. 

This might be one: Legislative leaders scheduled a second closed-door meeting in the governor’s office today. The daily 10 a.m. meeting broke up after about 15 minutes, but the group reconvened at 3 p.m. for another one.

He concludes, that after weeks of slo-mo,

… just holding two meetings could be considered movement at lightning speed.

They’re getting lots of advice from the media.

The Columbian tells them to get realistic.

The reality is that the Democrats’ push for a capital-gains tax might be defensible, but the debate appears unwinnable.

Not that Republicans are on the side of the angels when it comes to their budget proposal. Among the faulty assumptions is one that takes at face value the state’s estimate for money from marijuana taxes.

The Olympian suggests a path to a budget deal made simple.

A capital gains tax is a small step toward making Washington’s tax code — which is simply the worst in the country in terms of burdening the poor — a little less unfair. If the Senate still doesn’t like the capital gains tax, then its leaders should point out where they want to find new revenue.

Simple? Crosscut reports the capital gains tax won’t fly with Republicans, who still believe there’s no need for new revenue.

Joseph O’Sullivan, reporting for the Seattle Times, points out an important fundamental. After budget negotiators reach agreement, they still need to sell the deal to their caucuses. And time is running out.