Governors are always happier when the Legislature is not in town and they can run the state without meddling from lawmakers. Nevertheless, once it became clear the economic devastation caused by the coronavirus pandemic was going to blow an $8.8 billion hole in the state budget, there was an expectation that Gov. Jay Inslee would call a special session of the state Legislature to deal with the fiscal crisis.
Somewhat surprisingly, Inslee has now decided against summoning legislators back to Olympia. The state government, he believes, can limp along with furloughs of state employees and other money-saving measures, plus a possible infusion of federal dollars, until the regular legislative session begins in January.
Republicans are none too happy about this. They contend that bigger budget cuts need to be made now so that the job of reshaping the budget is less monumental next year. Inslee appears willing to run that risk, arguing that there are too many unknowns to allow sound choices right now. He says, if circumstances change, a special session can be held later this year.
Perhaps another factor is at play, as well. This being an election year, getting into a wrangle over the budget could be made worse by the partisan politics at play. In January, the makeup of the Legislature will have been determined by voters, and Inslee will likely be starting his third term as governor.
Or, maybe there will be a big surprise in November and Inslee will lose. In that case, Inslee will be freed from the arduous task of fixing the massive hole in the budget and Gov. Tim Eyman – or whoever the Republican victor might be – can take on that unappealing task.
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