We are now in week 4 of the 2012 1st special legislative session and finally it looks like there is movement on the hill. Tomorrow, Wednesday, April 4, House members are scheduled to return to the capitol for public hearings in the Ways & Means, Capital Budget and the General Government Appropriations & Oversight committees.
Up for public hearing are several reform bills members are insisting pass before they will vote for a budget. Among them are:
- HB 2824- Addressing comprehensive funding for education by developing a plan for full funding and by freeing certain existing revenues for support of the basic education program.
- HB 2825- Addressing the benefits and contributions for new members of the public employees’ retirement system, the teachers’ retirement system, and the school employees’ retirement system.
- HB 2827- Improving state budgeting and planning by requiring a balanced state operating budget for the current biennium and developing a process for balancing the budget over a two-biennium period.
- HB 2829- Addressing public school employees’ insurance benefits.
The passage of these reforms is the first step in the right direction, but a budget also needs to surface that has the votes to seal the deal. The House meeting is good first step, but negotiations are rumored to still be shaky. At this point the Senate is not scheduled to meet and a quote from Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown responding to Gubernatorial Candidate Rob McKenna’s latest opinion on budget negotiations paints a more tenuous situation. Brown said, “… The truth is this: the last offer on the table was one we made on Friday at 8pm. There’s been no counter offer. That’s the real hold up and we’re sorely disappointed.”
With only 7 days left until the end of the 30 day special legislative session, and the Easter holiday this weekend, lawmakers will need to move quickly in order to finish on time.