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Special session likely to go to second round for Legislature
It's going to be double overtime for state lawmakers.
Gov. Jay Inslee is expected to order a second special session after it became obvious Monday that the House and Senate would not end their stand-off on spending, taxes and reforms before this one ends at midnight.
"We're not getting finished by (Tuesday) night," said David Postman, Inslee's executive director of communications. "There's going to be another session."
Inslee said last week it would start on Wednesday. Like the extra session wrapping up today, it could run up to 30 days.
Lawmakers in both parties groaned and growled Monday at the prospect of going longer.
"We're panting, stumbling toward the finish line and at this point most members would probably sell their mother for a drink of water and a budget deal," said Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle.
Lawmakers are wrapping up a special session that began May 13 with tension on several fronts between the Democrat-controlled House and the Majority Coalition Caucus in the Senate made up of 23 Republicans and two Democrats.
The two chambers are at odds on the content of a new state budget, which is supposed to go into effect July 1. They differ on how to erase a projected shortfall and the means of pumping as much as $1 billion more into public schools in response to a Supreme Court decision.
The two sides seemed to inch closer on a new budget in recent days when the House dropped most of its proposals for new or higher taxes and the Senate expressed a willingness to raise taxes.
But the Senate's insistence on passing three reform bills before acting on a budget appeared to push the two sides apart.
"I'm feeling extremely frustrated," said Rep. Mary Helen Roberts, D-Lynnwood. "I haven't seen any evidence that the Senate is moving as far as we've been willing to move."
A Majority Coalition leader said Monday the policy bills "are very important" but everything is up for negotiating at this stage.
"At some point when negotiating something of this magnitude there has to be restored trust and deals made and deals kept," said Sen. Joe Fain, R-Auburn, who is the Senate floor leader.
One Senate proposal would give principals the ability to reject teachers who are appointed to their schools. Another would limit the rate of growth for non-education spending in the state budget. Both ideas would be placed on the November ballot.
The third measure aims to allow more injured workers access to structured settlements in lieu of long-term disability.
Some House Republicans are less than enthralled with the strategy of their GOP brethren in the Senate.
"I don't think we should be considering policy bills at all in special session," said Rep. Dave Hayes, R-Camano Island, adding that Democrats must stop pushing their policy bills as well.
"We should be focused on those things that are necessary to implement the budget," he said. "We're all down here to do the work. We just need to get it done."
Some lawmakers worry they will fail to adopt a budget by July 1. That's never happened before, and if it does, many — but not all — state agencies could shut down.
"I think both sides recognize the many reasons we would not want to go beyond the start of the new biennium," Fain said.
Nonetheless, on Monday the House overwhelmingly approved a bare-bones capital budget to ensure that funding continues to flow to ongoing construction projects past July 1.
"It is a life preserver in case (the Senate) shuts us down," said Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, who wrote the measure.