Washington State Legislature

Senate leaders say state budget deal reached

Jun 26, 2013
<<Jonny Boy>> / Flickr

Leaders in the Washington state Senate say lawmakers have agreed to the framework of a new budget to avert a government shutdown.

Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom said Wednesday that negotiators have settled on the major components of the budget, allowing staff to go through the process of officially writing it. He expects lawmakers will be able to vote on the spending plan Thursday or early Friday.

<< Jonny Boy >> / Flickr

Negotiators in Olympia have agreed to the large components of a new state budget and are now working through the smaller details.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Jay Inslee said Tuesday there have been no setbacks in the talks and that lawmakers are close to agreement on a final deal. Inslee had said Monday that a deal was imminent and hoped it would have been finalized within hours.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee says he is confident that a budget deal is imminent.

Inslee said Monday afternoon that he has seen "very significant breakthroughs" in recent budget talks. He says lawmakers should be able to reach a final agreement very quickly.

Washington state is now just one week away from a government shutdown after no deal emerged Sunday.

Since a budget vote is not likely before midnight, thousands of state workers will be given layoff notices tomorrow.

They will be temporarily laid off if there is no budget deal over the next seven days. 

Rachel La Corte / Associated Press

The push is on to reach a final budget deal in Olympia. Top legislative leaders met Thursday in an attempt to bridge their final differences.

Meanwhile, we’re starting to get a clearer picture of what a government shutdown on July 1 would look like if no agreement is reached.

There’s suddenly a flurry of talk in Olympia about a quick resolution to the weeks-long budget stalemate. The change in rhetoric follows Tuesday’s positive revenue and caseload forecasts.

Budget writers will now have more than $300 million in additional funds to help bridge their differences, thanks to a recovering housing market and improved consumer confidence.

Washington prisons would stay open, but much of the state would not if there’s a government shutdown. Governor Jay Inslee met with his cabinet Wednesday to begin contingency planning if there’s no budget by the end of the month. That’s the start of the new fiscal year.

“We’re not talking about opening the prison doors because there are clear federal mandates from the federal constitution and federal laws to provide for folks that are in our care and custody,” says Nick Brown, the Governor’s attorney.

There were dramatic developments in Olympia overnight. Governor Jay Inslee held a midnight bill signing to amend Washington’s estate tax. The move means the Department of Revenue will not begin to issue refund checks Friday morning to the heirs of some multi-million dollar estates.

The state of Washington was about to embark on a months-long process of refunding an estimated $140 million to more than 100 estates. This was the result of a Supreme Court ruling earlier this year. The money would have come out of a fund dedicated to public schools.

The opening gavel has once again fallen in the Washington legislature.

"The second extraordinary session of the 63rd legislature will now be in order,” said a deadpan Lt. Governor Brad Owen Wednesday morning in the state Senate.

The second overtime session is necessary because lawmakers have yet to find agreement on a budget for the next two years. Taxes and controversial policy measures are the chief hang ups.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee will call lawmakers back into a second special session beginning at 9:00 a.m. Wednesday. He’s also beginning preparations for a government shutdown on July 1 if there’s no deal by then.

The moves come as the 30th and final day of the first overtime session comes and goes with still no budget deal.

At a news conference, Democrat Inslee blamed the stalemate on the mostly Republican Senate Majority for insisting on several controversial policy measures he says are unrelated to the budget.

Washington’s overtime legislative session ends at midnight on Tuesday. But there’s still no agreement on a state budget for the next two years.

Over the weekend, the mostly Republican senate majority passed a revised version of its own spending plan, along with a trio of controversial policy measures.

The three policy bills are not new, the Senate passed them during the regular session. The difference is two of them now have referendum clauses, meaning voters would get the final say.

The Washington Senate’s coalition caucus has reclaimed its majority status. Republican Steve O’Ban was sworn in Wednesday. He fills the seat of the late Mike Carrell who died last week during treatment of a pre-leukemia condition.

O’Ban’s appointment was fast-tracked in order to restore the mostly Republican coalition’s one vote majority during final budget negotiations.

mathteacherguy / Flickr

There’s one week left in Washington’s special legislative session and still no budget deal. Gov. Jay Inslee and the Senate majority caucus held dueling news conferences Tuesday, complete with plenty of finger-pointing.

The governor went first. Inslee, a Democrat, blasted the mostly-Republican senate majority for an estate tax measure that passed out of committee late last week. Inslee called it a new tax break for more than 200 wealthy Washingtonians at the expense of public schools.

tsparks / Flickr

With just over a week left in an overtime legislative session, negotiations between key lawmakers are set to continue, but there's still no budget deal in sight and limited activity at the Capitol.

A floor session in the Senate was scheduled for Monday afternoon, but it was uncertain what action might be taken.

mathteacherguy / Flickr

A public radio investigation into lobbyist-paid meals has prompted an ethics complaint against three state lawmakers.

The complaint was filed this week by an open government advocate named Arthur West, who alleges the two Republicans and one Democrat violated the rule that states lawmakers can accept free meals only on an “infrequent” basis.

Meanwhile, some legislators say they’re the victims of flaws in the system used by lobbyists report entertainment expenses.

mathteacherguy / Flickr

Washington state lawmakers are barred from accepting gifts intended to influence their vote. But there’s an exception to that rule. Members of the Legislature are allowed to accept free food and drinks if it’s related to their official duties, but only on an “infrequent” basis.

However, a public radio investigation, conducted in cooperation with the Associated Press, reveals that dozens of state legislators frequently accept meals from lobbyists. And many of them do so even while collecting taxpayer-funded per diem payments.

Pressure is mounting on Washington state lawmakers to approve a gas tax increase to fund road projects. Backers of the 10-cents-per-gallon tax proposal rallied at the state Capitol Monday to push for a vote during the current 30-day overtime session.

Dozens in hard hats gathered on the steps of the Capitol, holding signs and chanting: “Pass it now! Pass it now!”

As lawmakers wrap up their first week of a special legislative session, Senate majority leaders have asked that more than 30 bills be considered as part of the budget discussions.

A list of 33 measures, obtained by The Associated Press on Friday, was submitted during a private meeting Thursday, including bills dealing with changes to the workers' compensation system, education bills and other bills tied to the budget, including funding for state parks and higher education. Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler declined to comment on the list Friday.

Rachel La Corte / Associated Press

With the state Legislature back in session for a 30-day extra inning, Gov. Jay Inslee on Monday narrowed his agenda to three key items: the budget, a roads-and-transit funding package, and a crackdown on impaired drivers.

Two Washington state lawmakers are defending their frequent dinners with lobbyists. The meals show up in monthly reports filed with the state’s Public Disclosure Commission.

State Rep. Marcus Riccelli is a freshman Democrat from Spokane. On four occasions from January through March, he dined out with Michael Temple, a lobbyist for the state’s powerful trial lawyers association.

When asked Riccelli about those dinners, Riccelli joked, “I’m an Italian kid. I have a big appetite.”

Austin Jenkins

In the first three months of this year, lobbyists in Washington state spent more than $200,000 on entertainment. Much of that money was spent to wine and dine state lawmakers during the just-concluded 105-day session.

The spending begs the question: What are lobbyists and their clients getting in exchange for picking up the tab?

When Washington lawmakers return to Olympia in two weeks for a special session, Governor Jay Inslee is demanding they approve funding for the new Columbia River Crossing. The Democrat wants that funding included in a broader gas tax measure. But the governor faces opposition from the state senate - especially one powerful southwest Washington Republican: Senator Don Benton.

Gun control advocates in Washington are launching an initiative campaign after state lawmakers declined to expand background checks on gun sales.

The group Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility announced its plans Monday. Supporters will need to collect nearly 250,000 valid signatures, with state officials recommending the submission of more than 300,000 to account for duplicates and invalid signatures.

Students heading off to college in Washington state next fall will have to wait awhile to find out how much tuition they'll be paying.

Since the Legislature hasn't finished the state budget, no one is sure whether lawmakers will recommend a tuition increase, or cut, or neither. All three ideas have been proposed this year.

With just one day before the end of session, Washington lawmakers appear to be making little progress toward the ultimate goal of a final budget agreement.

Leaders in both the House and Senate seemed to resign themselves Saturday to the prospect of an overtime session, with the regular 105-day period coming to an end Sunday night. A spokesman for Gov. Jay Inslee said that no decision had been made on when a special session may start.

The House has approved a measure prosecutors and crime lab scientists say is needed because of concerns that a provision in Washington's new legal marijuana law jeopardizes their ability to go after any pot crimes at all.

The measure, passed on a 95-1 vote Friday, defines marijuana as part of the cannabis plant containing more than 0.3 percent of delta-9 THC and THC acid. Supporters said the change was a technical fix needed to help police and prosecutors distinguish marijuana from industrial hemp, which is grown for its fiber.

State lawmakers have reached an apparent deal on a transportation budget.

The state House is expected to vote on the compromise $8.8 billion budget over the weekend, with the Senate likely to follow suit before the regular session ends on Sunday.

Austin Jenkins

An expected special session of the Washington state Legislature would mean another freeze on political fundraising.

State law prohibits lawmakers from soliciting contributions while they are in session. For most members, that’s probably not a huge concern since this is an off-election year. But a few legislators will be on this year’s ballot.

Gov. Jay Inslee is like the gambler. He says it would take an “inside straight” for the Legislature to complete its work by Sunday’s deadline. 

A nearly $1 billion tax vote in the Washington House Wednesday has cleared the way for budget negotiations to begin in earnest at the Capitol. But an overtime session still appears likely. 

Democrats in the Washington state House are moving ahead with a tax plan valued at $900 million over the next two years.

The House narrowly approved a variety of tax changes Wednesday, including the permanent extension of business taxes to raise more than half a billion dollars. The plan would also repeal tax breaks for travel agents, bottled water and fuel.

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