State Legislature to start special session Monday

By Rachel La Corte

The Associated Press

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee called lawmakers back for a special session that will start Monday, expressing frustration that lawmakers once again are forced to go into overtime to finish their work.

“This job cannot wait,” he said at a news conference Friday. “It is most disappointing that state of Washington and the people of this state are in this position again.”

Except for 2014, the Legislature has had to go into special session every year since 2010, sometimes multiple times within the same year.

As they work to craft a two-year state operating budget — which must be signed into law by June 30 or else the state risks a partial government shutdown — Washington lawmakers must also comply with a 2012 state Supreme Court ruling that they must meet the state’s constitutional requirement to fully fund the state’s basic education system.

The court has said the state has until Sept. 1, 2018, to do that but that the details — including funding — must be in place before the Legislature adjourns this year.

While the state has made progress since the original ruling, the biggest piece remaining of the court order is figuring out how much the state must provide for teacher salaries. School districts currently pay a big chunk of those salaries with local property-tax levies.

Among the differences between the budgets put forth by both chambers is how they address the local property tax levies. Unlike the Senate plan, which would replace local school levies with a statewide uniform rate earmarked for schools, the House plan would lower the local levy rate but not eliminate them completely. The two-year plan put forth by the House also seeks about $3 billion in taxes that the full chamber has not voted on, including a new capital gains tax.

Republicans have said they can’t negotiate the budget until House Democrats pass that revenue. Both chambers passed their respective underlying spending plans last month, but both sides have been accusing the other of not passing all of the bills needed to balance out their proposals.

Republican Sen. John Braun, the key budget writer in the Senate, said that he’s been working to try and get the House to either pull their tax bills off the table or to take a vote on them.

“We’re not going to negotiate against ourselves, simple as that,” he said.

Democratic House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan said he’s frustrated that Republicans aren’t willing to budge.

“When the budgets are as far apart as they are this year, you’ve got to put in the time,” he said.

The regular session is set to end today, but lawmakers were expected to break for the weekend on Friday, with just a few lawmakers on hand today to officially end the 105-day session.

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