The rocky 2012 session of the state legislature will lurch to a close tomorrow at midnight and it’s no longer possible to put a budget plan together by then. The only question left is what sort of special session to call and when.
But first, let’s recap: the Democrat-controlled House passed a supplemental operating budget proposal with a Democrat majority. The Democrat-controlled Senate passed a supplemental operating budget proposal with a Republican majority, by getting three Democrats to vote for their budget.
To close the budget gap (I’m really not sure how big it is any more) the Democrats want to to defer payments to public schools. Republicans want to skip a payment to the state pension plan.
Democrats are still furious about the Republican takeover of the budget process and do not appear eager to engage Republicans in negotiations. What to do? The leaders of the Senate Republicans, Minority Leader Mike Hewitt (Walla Walla) and Ways & Means leader, Joe Zarelli (Ridgefield) say Democrats need to cool off before negotiations can begin.
Special sessions of the legislature are statutorily limited to no more than 30 days. The governor could call the whole legislature back into session–but lawmakers not involved in the budget process wouldn’t have much to do but wait for an agreement. Another approach would be to ask budget negotiators to continue to meet and then to call legislators back once an agreement has been reached.
It IS possible that no agreement at all would be reached, forcing the governor to balance the budget. That would require and across-the-board-cuts solution of about 10 percent. Yikes! Let’s hope negotiators resolve their angst and start talking.