What's the budget hold-up in Olympia?




Posted on March 12, 2010 at 6:32 PM

Updated Friday, Mar 12 at 6:52 PM

OLYMPIA, Wash. – When Gov. Chris Gregoire announced the special session Thursday night, she praised lawmakers for their hard work. Then, she hit them with the bottom line.

"We need to close a $2.8 billion gap without  jeopardizing our economic recovery or our future prosperity," said Gregoire.

It was the same bottom line lawmakers faced 60 days ago when the regular session started. So why couldn't they get it done on time?

"The Speaker of the House Frank Chopp has said point blank, no new sales tax," said Publicola.net's Josh Feit. He says Democrats control Olympia, but not all Democrats are equal.

"Quite frankly, you've got Democratic caucuses with conservatives and liberals and it's just divided and it's a hard thing to do," said Feit.

Liberal house members don't want to impose a higher sales tax. They think it hits low income people too hard. Instead, they propose closing loopholes and then count on $50 million from Pres. Barack Obama's proposed health care plan - a plan that is not at all certain to be passed into law.

Democratic senators say the only realist choice is a sales tax increase plus closing some loopholes.

Up to now, Gregoire has sided with the House, but now it's going to be all about compromise or the special session could drag on.

How long could will it take for lawmakers to bury their differences? Feit predicts three or four days.

History says short special sessions have happened pretty regularly, but so have special sessions that last a month.

It's estimated the special session will cost taxpayers $18,000 per day.