Scouting the special session: What makes successful resolution likely?

The Seattle Times headline over Joseph O’Sullivan’s special session preview story asks the key question: “As Olympia budget talks go into OT, what could possibly change?”

Not much, apparently.

As the clock ticks toward July 1 — when the state needs to have a new budget — lawmakers must find a way past the partisan acrimony that has gripped the Legislature these past few weeks.

But on the eve of the special session, the budget writers say they don’t see much movement.

But it’s still early. As O’Sullivan notes, the Legislature has been here before.

The 2001, 2003, 2011 and 2013 sessions — all budget years — have required a 30-day special session in the spring.

And the job gets done, eventually.

A veteran of several of those recent OT sessions, former Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, has an op-ed in the Seattle Times asking a different headline question: Did Olympia learn anything from the recession? Tom notes the challenge of roller-coaster budgeting – spending too much in the boom times, cutting sharply in the downturns – and argues for restraint and priority-setting now, as the economy recovers and state revenues are growing. The op-ed also points to the philosophical divide that threatens to extend budget negotiations.

The true debate is about the general growth of state government…

From the beginning of the session, budget writers have disagreed on the nature of the problem, on how much money the state should spend in the coming biennium. 

Former legislator and state GOP chair Chris Vance looks at the coming special session in Crosscut, with another headline punctuated with a question mark: Can the Legislature get more done in overtime? He notes the three big challenges: passing a budget, funding transportation, and satisfying the McCleary mandate. (Arguably, McCleary is a budget challenge, not a separate one. But as it looms large, giving it special status makes sense.) 

Progress on transportation seems to be on track, as we noted earlier. The education funding stalemate continues to plague budget writers. Melissa Santos reports that House Democrats have come back with a tax on carbon emissions.

Democrats in the state House aren’t excited about a Republican plan to raise the statewide property tax to help the state pay its share of basic education costs.

Instead, they’d rather fix the problem by using a tax on carbon emissions — an idea championed this year by Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, but that has gained little traction in the Legislature so far.


Senate Republicans have shown little enthusiasm for increasing taxes/fees on carbon emissions. Santos quotes a key Republican leader:

“I’d like to see them get the votes for an energy tax on working families,” said Ericksen, the chairman of the Senate’s Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee.


This could be a long session.