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WashingtonVotes NEWS: Friday, May 29, 2015

Lawmakers far apart on budget deal; 2nd special session to start today.

State lawmakers passed a $7.6 billion maintenance transportation budget, House Bill 1299, with near-unanimous votes during the last days of the special legislative session, but they remain far from agreement on an overall state spending plan for 2015-17

A second 30-day special session begins today. Governor Inslee has ordered state departments to prepare plans for a shutdown of some government services if the legislature does not pass a budget by June 30th, the end of the state’s fiscal year. Today, state officials sent notices to state employees and contractors warning of temporary layoffs and other effects if a shutdown occurs.

Legislators face additional pressure to complete their work and go home by the time the US Open Golf Tournament near Tacoma starts on June 15th. Hotel rooms in Olympia and throughout the South Sound area are booked solid as of that date.

Senate Republicans yesterday released the latest version of their 2015-17 state operating budget proposal, which would increase spending on higher education, state parks, drought relief and wages for caregivers in assisted living facilities. The proposal would add another $77 million for state employee pay raises, contingent on passage of Senate Bill 6126, to require that contract negotiations between the governor and state employee unions be open to the public.

According to lead Republican budget writer Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond, the state is on track to collect nearly $500 million more in revenues than was forecast at the beginning of the session. “We believe that is a significant amount of money,” he said. “Enough money to get out of town and finish a [state] budget.”

Republicans say that with $3.5 billion in extra revenue, the state does not need new taxes on families to meet budget and education spending obligations.

The proposed Senate budget, SB 6050, was passed by the Senate Ways and Means Committee Thursday afternoon. House Democrats plan to release their latest budget offer on Monday, followed by a public hearing on Tuesday.

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