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Inslee sends lawmakers back to drawing board for budget

Gov. Jay Inslee is asking House and Senate budget writers to renew negotiations in earnest as early as Tuesday in hopes of making substantial progress on a deal before lawmakers return for a special session.

“We are working to see if we can get that scheduled,” said David Postman, Inslee’s executive director of communications. “This allows time for good work to be done before the start of special session.”

Inslee wants to see representatives of the Republican and Democratic caucuses in each chamber get back on the negotiating schedule they had at the end of regular session, Postman said.

It’s possible that the governor could be involved in the talks this week, he added.

The special session will start next Monday at 9 a.m. and can last up to 30 days.

When the regular session ended on April 28, Inslee said he’d use the two-week break to push the House and Senate leaders closer to a budget accord.

“We will insist on, and I am confident, we will have vigorous work in the next two weeks,” Inslee said following the adjournment of regular session.

Most of the “vigorous work” last week did not involve legislators, but rather the budget writing staffs of the governor’s office and the two chambers.

Those individuals spent hours delving into and clarifying the rationale for some of the most disputed assumptions on which the Senate and House budgets are based.

For example, they examined the Senate assumption of $127 million in savings from steering part-time workers for public schools and state agencies into federally funded health care exchanges.

House Democrats contend that the Senate counts on too big a savings since it’s unclear if any workers will want to make the jump. The budget staff members sought to clarify how the figure came to be, a move which may assist lawmakers in negotiating on the policy.

There were several such issues with wrinkles to be ironed out, a spokesman for the governor’s budget office said.

Entering the special session, the House has passed a budget that spends roughly $1.1 billion more than one approved by the Senate. The difference is the amount of money that House Democrats want to raise by extending an expiring business tax and eliminating tax exemptions, two moves opposed by the Senate Majority Coalition. Inslee is siding with Democrats on taxes.

Budget isn’t the only topic that the governor and lawmakers intend to address in overtime. Inslee has said he wants the Legislature to pass a plan for raising billions of dollars for transportation improvements and enact a slate of school reforms. He also wants votes taken on controversial bills dealing with abortion insurance coverage, college financial aid for undocumented immigrants and background checks on private gun sales.

He is confident that a bill to impose longer sentences on repeat drunken driving offenders will be passed.

The Daily Herald is a sister publication of the Mercer Island Reporter.

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