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WashingtonVotes NEWS: Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Special session at halfway mark as budget talks continue; Governor's cap and trade tax considered; and two lawmakers move to impeach the State Auditor

Today is the 15th day of the 30-day special session that started on April 29th in Olympia. State lawmakers are continuing work on forging a 2015-17 spending plan, a transportation budget and education funding reforms.

Legislative leaders of both parties are trying to resolve more than 1,000 differences in their contrasting budget proposals and education reform bills. According to Governor Inslee, “there’s a long, long way to go.” Lawmakers say that early release of a state revenue forecast could make more money available. The forecast is currently scheduled to be released June 17th. So far, state lawmakers expect to receive over $3 billion in extra revenue from taxpayers compared to the last budget.

If agreement on fiscal issues is delayed until June, a second 30-day special session would be necessary, and some legislators are voicing concerns about making living arrangements to stay in the Olympia area, which is solidly booked for the upcoming U.S. Open Golf Tournament at Chambers Bay.

House Democrats this week said they want to again consider House Bill 1314, the cap-and-trade tax proposed by Governor Inslee. The House failed to advance the bill during the regular session, but Democratic leaders unveiled a new approach that would still impose some $1.3 billion in new taxes on major Washington businesses, as the governor wants, but would change the way the new money is distributed to education, transportation, family tax credits, affordable housing and other programs. The House Appropriations Committee has scheduled a public hearing on the bill for Thursday at 1:00 p.m.

State Representative Mary Dye (R-Pomeroy) was sworn in last week to replace Rep. Susan Fagan (R-Pullman), who resigned May 1st. Rep. Dye is a wheat farmer and state committeewoman for the Garfield County Republican Party. She will represent the 9th Legislative District, a large rural area encompassing six eastern Washington counties.

On Tuesday, two representatives introduced a resolution to impeach indicted State Auditor Troy Kelley, who is under a federal investigation for tax fraud.

It takes 50 votes for the House to pass an impeachment measure, at which point the Senate would hold a trial. If two-thirds of senators vote to convict, the impeached official is removed from office.

Both Democratic and Republican House leaders have said the impeachment effort is not likely to go anywhere, given the legislature’s focus on budget legislation. The last time the Washington state House impeached an official was in 1909, when Insurance Commissioner John Schively was accused of extorting money from insurance companies. Schively was later acquitted by the senate.

Visit washingtonvotes.org for updates on the special session and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Use #waleg.

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