OLYMPIA — With just more than a week left in an overtime legislative session, negotiations on the state budget continue, but without a deal in sight and limited activity at the Capitol, one lawmaker Monday said the possibility of a second overtime session was more and more likely.
Senate Minority Leader Ed Murray, D-Seattle, said that the next 24 hours are crucial.
“If there isn’t some break, it’s inevitable we’re heading toward another special session, and I believe that will drive us over a fiscal cliff,” he said.
Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler said he was going to “focus on the positive.”
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“We’re still talking,” he said. “We’re still working.”
Lawmakers are in the midst of a 30-day special session that began May 13 and is set to end June 11. They face a $1.2 billion budget shortfall for the two-year cycle that ends in the middle of 2015. That doesn’t count an additional $1 billion that lawmakers are seeking in response to a court-ordered requirement that the state spend more on its basic-education system.
Budget negotiations have been taking place for weeks between the Democratic-controlled House and the Senate, which is controlled by a coalition of 23 Republicans and two Democrats.
The original House and Senate budgets were about $1 billion apart, with House Democrats seeking new revenue by extending taxes and eliminating tax breaks, and the Senate majority looking to balance the budget without new taxes, relying on cuts to social programs and fund transfers.
House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, said that while logistically it is possible to get an agreement and budget passed by next week, he’s still worried about what happens if lawmakers haven’t agreed on a spending plan before the start of the fiscal year on July 1.
“I’m very concerned it will have a dramatic impact on our ability to provide services,” he said.
Gov. Jay Inslee issued a statement Friday saying that he’s become “increasingly concerned about the pace of budget negotiations.”
“All sides need to realize that it is time for significant compromise,” he said in the prepared statement.
The only public activity Monday was a floor session in the Senate for senators to share their remembrances of Sen. Mike Carrell, who died at age 69 last week from complications related to treatment for a blood condition.
With his death, the Senate is now in a tie, with 24 Democrats and 24 members of the Majority Coalition Caucus. The Pierce County Council could choose a replacement for Carrell as soon as Tuesday.