OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - Washington lawmakers adjourned their 60-day legislative session Thursday night without passing a supplemental budget, and Gov. Jay Inslee immediately called them back for a special session to complete their work and followed through on a threat to veto bills.
As budget negotiators met throughout the day, the House and Senate passed bills and honored lawmakers who were retiring. But with no sign of an agreement, and a threat by the governor to veto dozens of bills on his desk, lawmakers adjourned. Within half an hour, they gaveled back in for the special session.
Shortly after that, Inslee announced that of the 37 Senate bills that were awaiting his signature, he vetoed 27 and signed 10 into law. In his written veto messages, he noted that while the particular measures were “worthy” bills, passage of the budget “is a greater legislative priority.”
Vetoed bills included those dealing with marijuana research licenses, and industrial hemp. The bills he signed included those related to public safety and health, such as measures related to vehicular homicide sentences and human trafficking.
At a news conference after adjournment, Inslee cited the recent frequencies of the need for special sessions and said the vetoes were “an effort by me to try to break this cycle of lack of discipline of getting budgets out.”
“It’s not something I take any pleasure in,” he said.
Republican Sen. Joe Fain, the majority floor leader, said that the vetoes are a distraction.
“I don’t think it’s an effective tool but it shouldn’t in any way deter us from doing the job that we need to do to pass a balanced budget here in the near term,” he said.
Democratic House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan said lawmakers will continue to work to reach a deal.
“We wanted to get there, I that think from our standpoint we made significant offers to try and bridge the difference, we understand that compromise is part of getting a negotiated deal,” he said. “I think we put in that effort, I’m hoping again we can get this done as quickly as possible.”
Each chamber has already previously passed competing proposals. The Senate plan adds about $34 million to the two-year, $38 billion two-year operating budget adopted last year. The supplementary spending proposal from the House would alter the two-year budget by about $467 million and includes $317 million from the state’s emergency fund to pay for reducing homelessness, wildfire damage and more.
Republicans in the Senate previously said they don’t want to dip into the emergency fund to pay for some of those items, instead seeking other measures opposed by many Democrats, such as merging the pension plans of some firefighters, teachers and law enforcement.
Lawmakers will return to the Capitol Friday morning.
AP writer Walker Orenstein contributed to this report.
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