OLYMPIA -- The clock is ticking on the 30-day special session of the Legislature. Lawmakers have until next Thursday to agree on a new $38 billion budget.
The months-long impasse has sparked recent walkouts by teachers and state employees.
On Thursday, there were more words of blame for who is responsible for the gridlock, and more talk that the governor will have to order another 30-day special session to get the job done.
“You can’t just shut down the conversation about revenue,” said Rep. Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, the House majority leader.
There is still about $500 million that separates Democrats and Republicans in this bitter standoff. Democrats are pushing to increase taxes to raise teacher pay and public employee salaries.
“Let’s sit down, let’s go through the budgets, let’s see how you can move the state forward,” said Sullivan. “You’ll clearly see that there is a need for additional resources to balance the budget.”
The new revenue being pushed by Democrats comes primarily from a capital gains tax on the wealthy and a hike in the state’s business tax.
Republicans continue to insist that the state can live within its means, especially since a new forecast earlier this week showed an additional $400 million coming into the state over the next two years from the improved economy.
“Existing state tax revenues are more than enough to fully fund education and make major investments in mental health, higher education and the social safety net,” said Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond, the GOP’s chief budget writer. “Passing risky or harmful new taxes right now is simply not necessary.”
Most expect that the governor will have to call another 30-day session because of the stalled talks.
If lawmakers can’t agree on a new spending plan by July 1, the start of the state's new fiscal year, state government will be forced to shut down.