The Washington legislature has adjourned after a 105-day session. The final gavels fell just after 6 p.m. Sunday night.
“The 2013 regular session of the 63rd legislature is adjourned Sine Die," declared Lt. Gov. Brad Owen to applause.
But the adjournment won’t last long. Governor Jay Inslee immediately called a special session for two weeks from now because the House and Senate failed to come to agreement on a two-year budget.
Inslee says he hopes lawmakers can return to Olympia in a couple of weeks and finish their job in what he calls a “quick and orderly fashion.” But even the governor admits there’s a big gulf between and the Democratic House and mostly Republican Senate when it comes to the budget.
“The parties are not miles apart at the moment, they are light years apart at the moment,” he said.
Add to that, the Democrat wants lawmakers to tackle several other hot button issues in the special session. They include: a gas tax transportation package, gun violence measures and a bill to require health insurance plans cover abortion. And Inslee reiterated that closing tax exemptions to raise money for education is also a priority.
“We might be here a long time,” said Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler. “Insistence on raising taxes makes for a lot longer session.”
The plan is for budget negotiators to meet daily during the two week break. The special session will run 30 days.
House budget chair Ross Hunter, a Democrat, agrees the two parties are far apart.
“We have pretty different beliefs about what would constitute a stable budget and we’re going to have to work through those I think before we can get to the discussion about what’s an appropriate budget,” Hunter said.
Hunter’s budget writing counterpart in the Washington Senate is Republican Andy Hill. He’s advocating for a no-new-taxes budget on behalf of a majority coalition made up of 23 Republicans and 2 Democrats. But Hill signals he’s willing to take a pragmatic approach.
“I’m more interested in getting a budget that serves the people of Washington, takes care of building an education system for the 21st century, that’s my focus. I’m not nearly looking at who from which party is going to vote for it,” Hill said.
Hill says he’s the ultimate optimist when it comes to crafting a final deal. But others in the legislature predict it’s going to take a while to come to an agreement.