Angry Gregoire refuses to sign bills, wants budget

Originally published on March 15, 2012 5:12 pm

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Nearly a week into Washington’s special session and there’s no sign of a budget deal. Now, an angry Governor Chris Gregoire is refusing to sign dozens of bills in protest over the pace of negotiations.

“If they don’t get something done here I’m going to start trickling out vetoes," Gregoire said. "Maybe that’ll get their attention.”

Gregoire is furious that Senate Republicans Thursday unveiled a new budget proposal without getting buy-in from all the negotiators. She says the move undermines trust.

But key Democratic budget writers say the new proposal might in fact jumpstart stalled talks.

The coalition that took over the Washington state Senate a couple of weeks ago and passed a budget is back. This time the 22 Republicans and three break-away Democrats have a new plan to re-balance the books. One that would restore more than $70 million in cuts to K-12 and higher education.

Senator Jim Kastama is one of the three Democrats allied with Republicans.

“This budget has made many of the changes suggested by my Democratic colleagues," Kastama says. "It’s a budget that can receive broad-based support, I believe. And it’s a budget that can bring the special session to a close.”

Initial reaction from majority Democrats was positive.

“There’s movement here," says House Budget Chair Ross Hunter. "This is good.”

Senate Budget Chair Ed Murray add, “I think it makes it easier to get into negotiations now that they’ve finally put a proposal down.”

But there are still major points of disagreement. Democrats want to delay a payment to schools. Republican propose instead to skip a pension payment.

The Senate Republican budget would also end the Disability Lifeline program and allow a few charter schools. Both of those proposals have been non-starters with many Democrats.

On the Web:

Budget Proposal Overview: http://leap.leg.wa.gov/leap/Budget/Detail/2012/SOOverviewStrikertoSB6612_0315.pdf

[031512AJ_WashBudget.jpg: State Sen. Rodney Tom, one of three break-away Democrats, speaks about a new budget proposal from the Senate’s “philosophical majority.”

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