Senate Republicans will unveil a new state budget proposal Thursday they hope will jump-start stalled negotiations with Democrats.
OLYMPIA — Senate Republicans plan to roll out a compromise state budget Thursday morning that reduces their proposed cuts to education and other areas of spending.
Sen. Joe Zarelli, the ranking Republican on the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said he hopes the proposal will jump-start budget negotiations, which have been stalled in the past couple of weeks.
“You will see an attempt to address most of the concerns people had, education issues, public health and some other areas,” he said in an interview Wednesday. “We’re going to show we can get most of the way there, and if we just talk, we can probably get all the way there.”
Democrats hold majorities in both chambers, but Republicans seized control of the budget process in the Senate earlier this month, with the help of three conservative Democrats. They passed a budget different from Democratic proposals with a 25-24 vote.
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Negotiations on how to close a roughly $1 billion budget shortfall have gone nowhere since then. The regular session ended March 8 and a special session started Monday to continue work on the budget, although only legislative leaders have been in town.
Zarelli would not go into detail but said the new GOP proposal would leave less money in reserve to free up funding to reduce cuts, and would include other changes intended to move toward a compromise.
The original Senate Republican budget left about $500 million in reserves and made about $74 million in cuts to K-12 and higher education.
It also eliminated a program known as Disability Lifeline, a welfare and health-care program for unemployable adults who aren’t covered by Social Security benefits.
The latest Democratic proposal, representing the position of House and Senate Democrats, had no cuts to education and preserved Disability Lifeline. It left $351 million in reserves.
Zarelli said “education will be pretty whole” in the new GOP proposal.
“We’re trying to show there’s a way to get most of the way there with what we’re presenting,” he said. “With a little more input and ideas from others we could get the rest of the way there.”
Senate Ways and Means Chairman Ed Murray, D-Seattle, said he had not been briefed on the budget yet but had heard enough leaked details to view it as progress.
“I’ve heard enough to know this is movement in our direction,” Murray said. “This is positive. We know we’ll have to move toward them and this is how you get out of town. This is the kind of breakthrough we’ve been waiting for.”
It’s not clear if the proposal would help resolve differences over whether to skip or delay certain payments.
The Democratic proposal would delay a payment to K-12 schools by a day, pushing it into the next two-year budget and saving $330 million in the current biennium.
Republicans have opposed that move while Democrats have refused to go along with the GOP proposal to skip a $133 million payment toward funding older, closed pension plans for teachers and state workers.
The Republican pension proposal contained other provisions the party argued would save the state money over the long term.
Zarelli said the new budget will include a revised pension proposal.
Andrew Garber: 360-236-8266 or email@example.com