Next week marks the second week of the first special session of 2011. Scheduled for a maximum of thirty days, the Legislature has until May 25 to act on a biennial operating and capital budget as well as several policy bills (approximately 48) necessary to implement the budget.
This past week the House met in caucus most of Tuesday. While most of the members returned to their districts for the week, House leadership remained in Olympia to continue budget negotiations with the Senate. The House is expected to return for a morning caucus on Monday and then floor session in the afternoon to consider legislation.
The Senate convened on Tuesday afternoon and continued floor sessions intermixed with Ways & Means Committee hearings and executive sessions through Thursday. The Senate is expected to return on Tuesday and continue a similar pattern of floor sessions and committee hearings this coming week.
Throughout the past week and into the next couple of weeks the House and Senate will continue to work towards a compromise budget. Yesterday House leadership delivered a compromise offer to the Senate. The Senate is now working to send back a response.
Overall the Senate budget cuts $4.8 billion compared to $4.4 billion in the House. The two budgets are reasonably close with only about $330 million separating the two budgets. However the chambers face strong differences with regard to a handful of policy proposals including salary reductions for K-12 employees, leasing of state liquor operations to a private company, sending the State Motor Pool and real-estate contracts management to the private sector, and furloughs for state employees making more than $50,000.