Wednesday, June 21st marked the end of the 2nd special session and the start of the 3rd special session. Governor Inslee called the third special session, clearly frustrated with the lack of progress. Under intense media questioning, Inslee said that he would veto a 30-day budget bill if one came to his desk.
“The differences in spending and revenue are small enough to get a budget done by next week,” Inslee said. He confirmed that the negotiations basically needed to be wrapped up by June 27 if lawmakers were to have enough time to get the budget bill into approved format, free of errors, and members to be briefed, vote on the bill, his staff to review, and to bring the budget to his desk for signature.
The fiscal year ends June 30th, and state employees have been put on notice that all but essential services would shut down starting July 1 if a new budget isn’t enacted and signed into law by then.
Reporters asked about an idea floated by Senate Republicans that they could do a 30-day budget that would last until the end of July. There is no provision for a “continuing resolution” style of government like in Washington, DC, and a 30-day budget has been untested in the courts. After being asked several times, and doing his best to avoid a definitive answer, Inslee answered the veto question with a quick “Yes” and then a shrug and a laugh. The media availability with Inslee is about 19 minutes long, and worth a listen.
In the meantime, negotiations have begun on the operating budget, although capital budget negotiators have yet to sit down to discuss details. Senate Republicans continue to say that a two-year capital budget will depend on a successful “fix” to the Supreme Court’s “Hirst” decision.
Speaking of Hirst, negotiators from Senate Republicans and House Democrats met last week, and reportedly agreed that there would be a bill this session, although details aren’t available about what may or may not be agreed to.
On June 20, the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council met to hear the revenue forecast. Revenues are projected to be up by nearly $190 million, split between the end of this fiscal year and the next two years. In addition, about $26 million in new revenue is projected in the 2019-21 biennial budget, which is helpful since lawmakers also must plan a four-year budget.
Negotiators on several key bills, including paid family leave and state assessments, appear to have reached agreement and are expected as part of the budget deal. Other bills that have received airplay in either the Senate or House may have to wait until 2018 – As a reminder, bills that were introduced in 2017 and not passed by both chambers do not need to be reintroduced next year to be considered again.
Neither the Senate or House have plans to be in town as a body this week; all members have been told they are “on call” and could be brought back for session at any time. Most legislators expect to be in town by next Monday or Tuesday, June 26 or 27, to begin passing policy and budget-related bills.
Prepared by Marie Sullivan, Legislative Consultant