The 30-day special session ends Tuesday, and it seems just about certain the Washington Legislature will be force into another special session. As the fiscal year ends June 30, Governor Jay Inslee may need to order government shut downs if a budget is not in place.
The Legislature is supposed to agree on an operating, capital and transportation budget by day’s end Tuesday. Chances are highly unlikely. KING 5’s Lori Matsukawa talked with Austin Jenkins, Public Radio’s Northwest News Network government reporter for some insight on the situation.
LM: Will the governor have to call another special session?
AJ: I think a second special session appears to be all but inevitable.
LM: How does another special session happen?
AJ: The governor will have to call it. He has indicated he will do so immediately. He won't wait for a cooling off period. He'll basically bring them back Wednesday morning and hope there's enough momentum to not have to stay a full 30 days more.
LM: What does a special session cost taxpayers?
AJ: According to the News Tribune, this first special session is costing about $10,000 a day. Lawmakers are entitled to $90 per diem in special session. Many of them will take a reduced rate or not take it at all.
LM: What's holding up the budget?
AJ: The Democrats in the House and the majority Republicans in the Senate are closer in terms of the amount of money they want to spend in the next couple years, but still very far apart on two key issues. Taxes, or revenues, mostly in terms of closing tax exemptions which is what the Democrats are proposing and some controversial policy issues. One having to do with the state's worker's compensation system. Also a bill to allow principals to veto the placement of teachers in their building which the Senate is insisting upon.
LM: If there's insufficient revenue, what happens?
AJ: Democrats say there will have to be cuts in social services or the State won't be able to provide a billion dollars for education as part of fulfilling the McCleary decision (a ruling that the State is inadequately funding education).
LM: Is the governor working the hallways and legislators to get legislation moving?
AJ: He's said he wants to be on the field, playing the game, not refereeing this. He's got an agenda and an outcome that he wants. That said, I've been told there's a "perfect moment" for a governor to interject themselves into these discussions and it tends to be right when a deal appears to be coming together. I don't think we've quite reached that point yet.
LM: The fiscal year ends in 20 days. What if there's no budget by then?
AJ: There's a possibility of a government shutdown. I don't sense panic in the halls of state government yet. The Governor's Office is just now starting to think about what a contingency plan would look like. But in legislative life, 20 days is still a long time.