Politics & Government

Special session update: Day 22

Or as the state Republican Party put it in a news release today: "Washington Held Hostage, Special Session Day 22: No End in Sight."

The hostages around here tend to be budgets and bills, not actual Washingtonians, but it's true that the gridlock at the Legislature continues with no sign of a breakthrough on the horizon.

Gov. Chris Gregoire told reporters Monday she's more and more discouraged about the lack of progress. Earlier in the day, she talked with her Cabinet about what happens if there's no budget when the new fiscal year starts July 1. AP's Mike Baker has details about what a partial government shutdown would look like.

Not that Gregoire thinks that will happen. "I don't see it. I'm not concerned about it. But I have to nonetheless get people ready," she said.

Today a bill that is one of the big sticking points comes up for a vote in the House Capital Budget Committee. SJR 8215 would change the state constitution to reduce the amount of debt the state could take on. Senate budget writers are pushing it but Rep. Hans Dunshee is leading the fight against it -- and has so far kept the bill bottled up in his committee.

Over at the state Transportation Commission today, the board that sets ferry fares is being briefed on changes the Legislature is making in the ferry system.

Now here's the rest of that GOP news release:

Day 22: No End in Sight

Bellevue – Democrats in the legislature refuse to solve the state’s $5 billion budget hole mounting a now 22-day old special session with no end in sight.

“Democrats control the legislature and Governor’s mansion. This is a Democrat debacle,” said WSRP Chairman Kirby Wilbur. “After failing to pass a budget during the regular 105-day session, they’ve gone another 20 days without any progress. Our communities can’t afford more indecision and inside political games. We need to know if our schools are going to be funded, if people will keep their jobs, and if there will be a safety net for the vulnerable. It’s time for the Democrats to get to work and pass a budget.”

Despite an unprecedented bipartisan budget plan in the Senate, Speaker Frank Chopp and House Democrats continue to hold the legislature hostage. State law requires the legislature to pass a budget by June 1st, yet Democrats show no sign of meeting this deadline. They have hardly touched the more than 40 bills necessary to implement the budget.

“Our Republican legislators reached across the aisle to help the Democrats solve the state’s $5 billion budget hole. That’s never been done. Despite this, Speaker Chopp and his Democratic colleagues refuse to budge. Democrats control everything, but have decided that infighting in their own party is more important than doing the people’s business,” said Wilbur.

Governor Gregoire faces the prospect of having to call a second special session if the legislature does not pass a budget by May 25th. With a cost of up to $20,000 per day, the tab quickly adds up on a state already drowning in red ink.