The failure of a new capital budget could also affect Washington lawmakers’ long-running quest to comply with the state Supreme Court’s K-12 school-funding order known as the McCleary decision.
OLYMPIA — Barring a last-minute miracle, Washington lawmakers Thursday will leave the Legislature without the rural water-use bill and a new state construction budget so many of them wanted.
Tired and frustrated after months of hard-fought negotiations, legislators Wednesday announced negotiations had collapsed on a water-use bill intended to address the state Supreme Court’s Hirst decision.
That 2016 ruling has left some rural property owners in limbo as they try to build homes.
Leaders from the Democratic-controlled House and GOP-controlled Senate acknowledged they were unlikely to find a deal on Hirst before the third overtime session ends Thursday.
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Senate Republicans, meanwhile, stood firm on their pledge to not pass a two-year capital construction budget without a Hirst agreement. That roughly $4 billion bill included about $1 billion for new school construction.
Gov. Jay Inslee won’t call lawmakers back for another session “unless they tell us they have an agreement and they’re ready to vote on it,” said Inslee spokeswoman Jaime Smith.
The stalemate in Olympia is likely to ripple across the state.
Last year’s Hirst ruling effectively stopped the drilling of some domestic water wells, putting on hold rural home construction. Absent new legislation, some prospective homebuyers will likely see their projects stay in limbo.
School districts throughout the state, meanwhile, could see their efforts to build or renovate facilities hampered.
The failure of a capital budget that would have approved new construction could also affect lawmakers’ long-running quest to comply with the state Supreme Court’s K-12 school-funding order known as the McCleary decision.
“Now without a capital budget that actually funds school construction, there’s questions with whether we’ll be able to implement it, those K-3 class size reductions,” said House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, during a news conference.
The stalemate over water use and a capital budget had plunged lawmakers into a record-long legislative season that already had been marred by discord.
Lawmakers this year completed a new state operating budget later than any other recent year. It was released and voted on the day before parts of Washington’s government would have shut down.
A week after that, Gov. Jay Inslee vetoed a tax breakfor manufacturers that House Democrats and Senate Republicans agreed upon as part of that last-minute deal. The move enraged Republicans.
Formal negotiations collapsed Wednesday after a flurry of last-minute talks and proposals. Democrats and Republicans couldn’t agree on a long-term solution.
House Democrats, meanwhile, offered a temporary two-year fix “for every property owner currently in limbo,” according to a news statement. They’d hope a fix would give lawmakers more time to reach a deal, and also pave the way for a capital budget.
Republicans stood firm, saying a temporary fix didn’t provide enough assurance for planning homes.
“I think it’s absolutely impossible for cities and counties to plan on a temporary fix,” said GOP Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler of Ritzville, in a news conference.
Republicans have previously proposed to essentially roll back the Hirst decision.
That court ruling set counties scrambling to figure out how to determine whether water is legally available, and threw up an obstacle to some people trying to build homes.
Many Democrats, and Washington’s Native American tribes, have opposed a full-scale rollback. The tribes say they are concerned about the overuse of water, which could hurt their treaty rights, as well as fisheries.
In a statement Wednesday afternoon, Inslee said that “as recently as today the House provided the Senate a permanent fix I would have supported, but the Senate has rejected those as well.”
But talks over a permanent fix were snagged over how much authority the tribes should have over the consideration of new water projects, according to Rep. David Taylor, R-Moxee and one of the Hirst negotiators.
By Tuesday evening, Democratic and Republican lawmakers had reached a tentative agreement on a capital-construction budget that includes nearly $1 billion for school construction, according to Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle and a capital budget negotiator.
A new two-year capital-construction budget would add about $4 billion in projects across Washington.
A version that passed the House this month also contained more than $100 million to add capacity to Washington’s mental-health system, which has endured years of problems and court rulings ordering improvements.
That capital budget called for spending about $18 million to help prevent wildfires. And it provided the last part of funding for a new Burke Museum at the University of Washington.
Hirst negotiators said they plan to keep talking past Thursday in search of a deal.
With this year’s legislative session running so late, lawmakers will be back in Olympia for the 2018 session in January, less than six months from now.
They could still approve a deal beyond Thursday if they found an agreement, and Inslee called them back for a fourth overtime session.