- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 21, 2015

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - The House’s budget chair said Tuesday Washington lawmakers will not finish their work by Sunday’s deadline and will need a special session to work out the details on the state budget and adequately paying for public education.

Gov. Jay Inslee agreed with Rep. Ross Hunter’s assessment. But he said special session plans haven’t been talked about yet.

“There’s not even close to a chance of agreement,” on the legislative response to the Supreme Court’s McCleary decision on public school funding, said Hunter, D-Medina, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

“We’re not going to agree on the budget by Sunday either. We’re going to go into a special session,” Hunter added.

Lawmakers this year are tasked with writing a new two-year operating budget for the state under the shadow of the McCleary decision.

The politically divided chambers have different ideas on how best to do that, with Democrats seeking more revenue and Republicans saying new taxes are not needed.

The court gave lawmakers one more legislative session - this year - to finish their plan and put the money in place by 2018 or suffer the consequences. Those potential consequences have not been defined by the court.

Budget negotiations between House Democrats and State Republicans hit a major snag last week over House tax bills related to budget proposals.

Sen. Andy Hill, the Senate Republicans’ key budget writer, said that he was disappointed that a special session is already a foregone conclusion.

“I don’t like to say we’re done until we’ve exhausted everything,” he said.

Hill said that the overtime session should start immediately after they adjourn the regular session, saying that a ‘cooling off’ period as the Legislature has done in the past will unnecessarily delay things.

“We need to get the work done,” he said. “Our school districts are desperate for a budget. They’re the ones that suffer the most when we’re late.”

Numerous ideas to fix the way the state pays for K-12 schools were proposed last week, but the proposals were too far apart for a simple compromise, Hunter said.

“Can we get together to reach a solution that makes the court happy: Yes,” he said. Can that happen this week: “No, we can’t reach a compromise by tomorrow.”

The author of the Senate Republican plan for the policy changes necessary to meet the Supreme Court order was optimistic they could reach a compromise with House Democrats eventually.

Lawmakers have been talking behind the scenes for about two years on how to tackle the policy side of the McCleary decision, both Republicans and Democrats say.

“We’ll continue to work with our House colleagues,” said Sen. Bruce Dammeier, R-Puyallup, vice chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee. “Unfortunately, the easier answer in Olympia is doing nothing. Doing something is hard. Doing something significant while solving this problem is very, very hard.”


Blankinship contributed from Seattle.

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