Yesterday the Legislature adjourned – sine die- around 4:00 p.m. without resolving either the operating or the capital budgets.
Both the House and Senate will return for the first special session of 2011 on Tuesday. The special session could run up to thirty days.
The House and Senate may approach the special session in a different way. The Senate plans to work next week already scheduling the first of many Ways & Means Committee hearings on Tuesday at 2:30.
The House is still considering a rolling recess which would bring some members back for a pro forma session but does not require all House members to be present for the session. Neither body can be out of session for more than three days without mutual agreement.
Gregoire said her intention was to limit the topics to the budget and the policy bills that are necessary to implement the budget. However, the governor can’t limit what the legislature discusses, so anything could be on the table.
It appears, thought, that legislative leaders have agreed to narrow their special-session work to the budget, related bills and issues such as workers’ compensation reform, consolidation of agencies, changes to the Guaranteed Education Tuition program and higher-education bills.
Finding a compromise with regard to the budget will be a big task. The House and Senate are within $250 million of each other on a $32 billion spending plan. However, there are major differences to overcome with regard to the budget.
Among the large issues separating the two chambers is a Senate proposal to reduce K-12 salaries by 3%, tuition in the colleges and universities, the disability lifeline, and whether to adopt new revenues to bridge the shortfall.
In addition, the Senate’s proposal to send a constitutional amendment to the voters to lower the debt limit from 9% to 7% is a big sticking point. The Senate has said it won’t move the capital budget without the constitutional amendment; the House has said it won’t do the capital budget until the bond bill passes.