Second special session begins today; pressure to reach budget agreement mounts

It’s here.

The second special session begins today, with lawmakers moving ever-so-carefully closer to a budget agreement. Gov. Jay Inslee wants lawmakers to move quickly toward compromise. The Seattle Times reports the governor will host daily meetings with the budget writers beginning Monday. 

“I’m urging lawmakers not to act as if they have a 30-day reprieve,” Inslee said at a news conference. “They do not. Their work should be done much faster than that.”

Senate Republicans released a budget proposal yesterday, saying they’ve ceded some ground to the House. A House counter proposal is expected Monday. Crosscut reports:

On Thursday, Inslee portrayed the new Republican proposal as a significant move toward compromise, even though he still disagrees with many portions of it.

The question of new taxes continues to divide the chambers. From the Spokesman-Review:

Neither Inslee nor Democratic leaders would say how much more revenue – generally speaking, higher taxes or fees – would be needed to cover programs they want to add or accounting “gimmicks” they want removed from the Senate GOP proposal. Nor would they name a preferred tax system.

“We can’t be Pollyanna-ish and think we can do this with twinkle dust,” Inslee said.

The Associated Press reports the Senate Republican stance hasn’t changed:

Senate leaders say the state can pay for everything it needs with existing revenue sources, especially since a recent state revenue forecast estimated the state will have an extra $400 million to spend. They say no new taxes are needed.

As we noted yesterday, the deadline pressure continues to mount. The Times summarizes:

Lawmakers are still in contempt of the state Supreme Court, which could impose sanctions if legislators don’t do enough to fully plan for more K-12 school funding per its McCleary order.

And if there’s no new budget in place by July 1, the start of the new fiscal year, some government services could shut down.

Beginning Friday, the state will start sending out notices to state employee unions and contractors warning of temporary layoffs or other effects of a shutdown, according to the state Office of Financial Management.

“I don’t want to think,” Inslee said, “about the consequences of failure.”

Although the divisions remains substantial, appreciation of the “consequences of failure” should drive the parties to agreement in the next two weeks.