It’s up to Gov. Jay Inslee to call a special session, but House and Senate budget negotiators already expect to return to Olympia on Monday.
In the waning days of this legislative session, lawmakers busied themselves accepting donated bottles of wine and debating dandelions (no, really) on the Capitol grounds. Gov. Jay Inslee, meanwhile, welcomed wrestlers in masks and a pack of dogs to bill-signing ceremonies.
And hope sputtered for a compromise on the state’s biennial budget before the regular session’s end.
The Legislature officially has until Sunday to finish its business and adjourn the regular session. And although it’s up to Inslee to officially call an extra session, House and Senate negotiators already expect to return to Olympia on Monday.
Whatever deal they eventually strike, it’s likely to include a long-awaited fix to one of the inequities in the existing funding system — the big and baffling differences in how much the state gives school districts toward paying their administrators.
Here’s a roundup of the McCleary action over the past week:
Late Friday, The Associated Press reported on why — again — lawmakers couldn’t reach a budget deal before the end of their 105-day session. That’s happened with more frequency in recent years, the AP noted.
More on McCleary
- 1,933 days and still no McCleary education funding fix in sight
- With deadlock in Olympia, Inslee calls special session
- As the session ends, wine and dandelions, but no McCleary fix
- As part of McCleary fix, lawmakers may end disparities in pay for school administrators
- How the complex history of teacher pay in Washington slows down education funding solutions
- ‘Stealth inequities’: How Washington’s education system hurts poor schools
- How we got this far behind in school funding
House Democrats and the GOP-led Senate continued to place blame for the stalemate on the other party.
The weekend also brought a story from The Olympian about what the state Supreme Court actually said in its landmark McCleary ruling on the issue of local school-district levies — one of the larger sticking points in the K-12 budget debate.
On Monday, public-radio station KNKX spoke with two former House and Senate budget writers who offered a glimpse into the negotiations.
“Whatever deal (lawmakers) come up with could affect Washington for generations,” KNKX reported. “But the deal-making process unfolds largely in private meetings, outside of public view.”
It wasn’t all doom-and-gloom, however, as the League of Education Voters hosted a guest blogger’s breakdown of how the competing budget plans both invest more in the state’s prekindergarten program for low-income children.
The Bellingham Herald on Tuesday sat down with Inslee, who said he hoped Democrats and Republicans would return to the negotiating table soon.
“This has been like dragging a rock uphill,” Inslee said. “My timeline is ‘as fast as we can.’”
Tom Ahearne, who represented the plaintiffs in the original McCleary case, was not nearly as hopeful as the governor for a speedy resolution.
“I do not have a lot of confidence that whatever budget the Legislature ends up in their compromise delivering to the governor and the governor signs is going to be enough,” Ahearne told Spokane Public Radio. “I’m hoping I’m wrong.”
A case of déjà vu hit The Seattle Times on Thursday, as Capitol reporter Joseph O’Sullivan recalled a similar budget stalemate just two years ago.
In brief, Senate Republicans refuse to resume budget talks with House Democrats until they vote on tax proposals that fund their 2017-19 spending priorities. Democrats have called foul in kind, arguing the GOP tax plan includes “nonexistent dollars” that first requires voter approval before a McCleary compromise is final.
Some education policy advocates have already started a pool on exactly how long the extra sessions will run.