OLYMPIA, Wash. - Washington's Legislature convened its 105-day session in Olympia Monday.
In the days ahead, lawmakers have to tackle a lot of big and difficult issues, most centered on patching the current year's budget and fixing an estimated $4.6 billion shortfall in the upcoming two-year budget.
Lawmakers were greeted by plenty of protesters, from health workers to elderly groups to unions, pleading with legislators not to cut their programs.
Gov. Chris Gregoire has proposed big cuts to things like the Basic Health Plan, education and pensions. House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, says he will not go along with the governor's plan to eliminate social programs like Disability Lifeline.
"If we carelessly decimate the safety and security of our most vulnerable citizens, we make all of us less safe and less secure," said Chopp.
"He has a good heart. We will cut everywhere, unfortunately. Human services, we'll take some. Education, we'll take some. Corrections, we'll take some. All those places you've got to go through every single item and see where the least pain is," said Representative Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish.
"I will have to look people in the eye and talk about things that will affect their lives personally and their livelihoods and so on, and tell them there is going to be some pain in this situation. I am going to hate that," Representative Mark Hargrove, R-Covington.
Hargrove is one of the new Republican legislators this year. Democrats still control both houses in Olympia.
"What we're going to have to do is take some steps that maybe we should have done last year. And, now because we didn't take some steps last year the problem is bigger," said Rep. Christopher Hurst, D-31st District. "So, we have a challenge but some of us are looking at that as an opportunity to do some things that we should've done last year."
Some Democrats are reluctant to go along with cuts as deep as the governor proposes. The governor says there's "no choice." On Tuesday, Gregoire gives her State of the State speech. That speech is usually when governors try to sell their budget, but Gregoire has already publicly said she hates her budget.
New senator controversy
A new senator took his place in the state Legislature Monday despite controversy over the campaign tactics used to get him elected.
Senator Nick Harper, D-Everett, took the oath of office after a fellow senator failed to convince lawmakers that Harper should not be sworn in.
Senator Jim Kastama, D-Puyallup, sponsored the resolution, saying Harper won his race with help from a third-party campaign. Kastama insisted the issue was not with Harper.
"Instead, the issue is a conspiracy to deceive voters of the 38th District that changed the outcome of a Senate primary," said Kastama.
The Washington state Attorney General's Office is investigating Moxie Media for allegedly violating campaign finance rules to help Harper during the Democratic Primary. Harper beat Senator Jean Berkey.